Interview With Mariangela

a look at the music of Vangelis Papathanassiou

 

Just after Vangelis had moved from Paris to London and while waiting for the construction of his very own Nemo Studios to finish, he temporarily worked at Orange Studio near Piccadilly Circus. For a long time not much was known how it came to be that Vangelis recorded two albums there, one with the Greek band "Socrates", the other with a young girl from Greece named "Mariangela". Today Movements reveals some of the answers to questions that many people have asked themselves for a long time, in an interview with....Mariangela Celeste!

Movements

Hi Mariangela, welcome to Movements! First of all thank you for taking the time to do an interview, I am glad to have a chance to finally talk with you :-)

 

Mariangela

Hi Robert, you’re welcome, I am glad to be doing this with you, too :-)
Actually I was quite surprised when I found your website recently with a page about my first album!

 

Movements

Sure, that album is very special to a lot of people who like the music of Vangelis, and I am sure that many would like to know more about you and your music! Until now not a lot is known about you and your album with Vangelis, so there have been a lot of speculations going around about it. It will be good to clear up a few things. But before I start firing questions, maybe first you’d like to introduce yourself?

 

Mariangela

I’d be happy to. First of all my full name is Mariangela Celeste Papaconstantinu, although nowadays I only use Mariangela Celeste. I am half Italian and half Greek, my mother is Italian and my father is Greek. I was born in Milan, Italy. I was raised in Germany in a musical environment as both my parents were professional singers of the opera. When I was six we moved to Germany, where we lived until we moved to Greece in the early seventies.

 

I started learning to play the guitar when I was only 11 and before I knew it I was writing my own songs, and singing and playing them for friends. In Greece a friend got very enthusiastic about them and decided to record them on a cassette which he then played to a famous TV producer who immediately arranged to put me in his next weekly music show! I was on his show every second week for months singing my unrecorded English songs. I don’t remember the name of the show.

 

When I first appeared on TV in Greece I was considered to be a wonder child. I was only 13 year at  the time. Despite my age I already wondered about the real meaning of life so that my songs often reflected those thoughts, maybe in a naive manner sometimes.

 

Movements

So how did you get to record and release your records?

 

Mariangela

A few months after I had appeared on TV I was offered to sign a contract with the record company Polygram. It all happened very fast!

 

We immediately recorded my first single "You were right" (Polydor 2061 162) which was also a song that was accepted to represent Greece at the World Popular Song Festival in Tokyo, Japan. The flipside of the single was called "Sinefia"(Cloudy Sky), again my composition, which was accepted at the Greek song festival of Salonica. I didn't win a prize but had very good critics instead :-)

 

A year after that my second single was released with two Greek songs on it called, “Thee mou konta mou” (Stand by Me My Lord) and “Ourane mou” (Heaven of Mine) on Polydor 2061 194. The first is my own composition and the flipside was written by Costa Tournas, a well-known Greek singer-composer.

 

So that's how it all started. Here I must mention that I didn’t speak a word of Greek at that time and I still have an accent today.  I’m still singing and writing songs for myself and other artists, but things aren't always easy in show business...

 

Movements

Yes I can imagine. I’ll get back to that a bit later. First I’d like to ask you, how did you meet with Vangelis?

 

Mariangela

Well, at that time Vangelis had some kind of agreement with Polygram and was supposed to choose one of the artists of the company in order to make a production. He chose me out of all so I found myself in London Studios before I knew what had happened :-).

 

When I arrived in London and while I was preparing the songs for my album, The Socrates were still in the middle of recording their album (Phos) with Vangelis. I spent a lot of time there with them and in fact I did sing all the female backing vocals in that album. In return Trandalidis played drums, J.Spathas guitar and A.Tourcoyorgis bass on some of the songs on my album.

 

Movements

It must have been quite exciting to be suddenly staying in London and to be working with Socrates and Vangelis?

 

Mariangela

It was a very special experience for me to work beside such a great artist! Vangelis was always very positive, laughing and making jokes while shaking the orchestrations out of his sleeves without effort at all. Once in a while he would ask one of us to massage his neck for a while then he would continue the recording happily again :-)

 

Movements

Ha ha, I can just picture that :-D

 

How about the songs on your album, did Vangelis write any of those?

 

Mariangela

As far as I know Vangelis did not write any of the songs and I remember Denny Beckermann coming to the studio. At that time I wasn't allowed to choose what songs to record, and to be honest I actually didn’t like some of the songs that they made me sing because I thought they were a bit old-fashioned and not serious enough for my taste. Nonetheless the songs on the album with my name on it are in fact mine, both composition as well as the lyrics. I also wrote new lyrics to the song "Let me find a pathway'' because the original lyrics were not so good. This however is not mentioned on the album as the song was already registered to S. Spanoudakis.

 

 

Two of the songs I wrote were actually Vangelis favourites of the album, “Memories of friends” and "Alone with the day”. When I visited Vangelis a couple of years ago he sat at his piano and played them to me while laughing and saying:” Remember these?”..... He still remembered them after all these years! I learned a lot from Vangelis back then and although we don't meet very often he will always be dear to my heart.

 

Movements

Impressive! It’s good to hear you are still in contact with each other :-)

I agree “Memories of friends” and "Alone with the day” are among the best songs of the album. There is one other that I really like, “This is my world” from Denny, a very moving song.

 

Mariangela

Actually I also liked that song very much! I never understood why the record company chose the song “Honalulu Baby” to be a single.

 

Movements

There’s one song that I don’t care for that much, “Rainbow”, also by written by Denny Beckermann.

 

Mariangela

I agree with you, I found the song Rainbow to be kind of silly…I never understood what it was really talking about. Now that I think of it, it might have been expressing an LSD experience or something like that, like the song of the BEATLES “Strawberry Fields”… I don’t know, I‘m just guessing.

 

Movements

Do you know who sings the male part of the vocals in that song and “Little girl it’s time to be a woman”?

 

Mariangela

I can’t recall his name, sorry. From what I remember he was a studio session singer who had a nice voice.

 

Movements

Do you remember when exactly you were in London to record the album?

 

Mariangela

No, not exactly. It was cold and rainy so it must have been autumn or winter. No wait, as a matter of fact I remember going with Vangelis and Vana and some other friends to Jon Anderson's birthday party, he was the singer of the group YES. It was the 25th 

of October (I remember the date because it's also the birthday of my brother), so that's when we were probably recording....

 

Movements

Vana? Is that Vana Verouti?

 

Mariangela

Yes it was her, that Vana. She used to come to visit Vangelis at his house. She had told me then that she had done something too in the past with Vangelis. I remember she had impressed me because she was so tall. I had never heard her sing then.

 

Movements

Interesting! Of course we now know that Vana would later work with Vangelis on his first solo album recorded in London, “Heaven and Hell”.

 

But back to you now, do you remember how long it took to record the album?

 

Mariangela

It took us six weeks to record the LP with Vangelis in London. Orange Studios were near Piccadilly and we used to start recording at around noon and went on until late at night with intervals for lunch etc. Especially during the mix I would fall asleep on the couches.... :-)

 

Movements

Oh, that’s sweet :-)

 

I read in a magazine that you went to London to record a new single with Vangelis, but you ended up recording an album, is that true?

 

Mariangela

I don't remember if we were supposed to do a single or an album. I thought I had gone to do an album but I can't swear on that.

 

Movements

Did you record other songs there too, songs that aren’t published on the LP?

 

Mariangela

Unfortunately we didn't record more songs. The recording of my LP started after The Socrates finished theirs and actually I’d like to mention that some of the lyrics of their songs were written by Andonis and the 15 year old then wife of Andonis Tourcoyorgis, Niki-Angelika Mackinnon-Andrew, a beautiful Greek-Canadian girl who became and is one of my dearest friends up till today. Actually she’s an excellent songwriter herself, I remember her writing the words in the studio and reading them to me. I think they were the lyrics of “A day in heaven” and also some others the titles of which I can’t recall right now.

 

Movements

Really? Too bad she isn’t credited on the Socrates album for it at all, and neither are you. I guess the record companies weren’t too precise with their credits back then…

 

Well, excuse my next question, it may seem a bit silly, but I’ve always wondered where that picture on the front-cover of your album was made. You look a bit serious in that photo.

 

Mariangela

Actually, as far as the cover-photo is concerned it was taken after the completion of the LP, in Greece at the summerhouse of Mr. Nicos Antippas, the head of Polydor Greece back then. The house is still there in Anivisos near Sounion, about 35 to 40 km away from Athens along the south coast.

 

His German wife Annemie, whose hobby it was to take pictures and who was a wonderful person by the way, fixed me up and took some pictures of me. I don’t remember why I look so serious. I think it may have been because I didn’t like the dress she asked me to wear, it was supposed to look like an ancient Greek dress and I preferred to wear jeans. Generally I looked serious on plenty of my pictures…let’s not forget, I was an adolescent, in the middle of my puberty!

 

It was also her who personally picked that photo from the shoot for the album sleeve.

 

Movements

Thanks for sharing that story, looking at the album sleeve will never be the same again :-)

 

So, what happened with the album after that? You may know that the album is quite a rarity nowadays, it’s just impossible to find a copy. Not to mention the single-release, if there hadn’t been a copy found a few years ago I would have never known it even existed!

 

Mariangela

As a matter of fact the record came out in many countries, but nothing was done to help it sell. I’m sure Polydor had high hopes for me in general, also because I was able to sing in different languages without effort. I speak five languages, German, English, Italian, Greek and French. I read and understand a bit of Tibetan too. I did whatever Polydor asked me to do but I didn't have an agent or manager so that didn't help much. I remember going to Holland for a press interview. I liked the people there, kind and open-minded!

 

Movements

Well, thanks, as I live in Holland myself I couldn’t agree more ;-)

 

Really, it’s too bad that your album didn’t sell well when it was released. This explains why it is so hard to come by nowadays. So how did you continue after that?

 

Mariangela

A year later another song of mine was again accepted at the World Popular Song Festival in Tokyo, where I went again to perform. It was titled "Think I'm losing my men", a happy pop song that unfortunately never was released.

 

I then lived in London for a while, where other companies showed interest in signing me up later on but I could not accept because I had a 7 year contract with Polydor.

 

Nothing much happened in the next years in Greece or elsewhere, nor with other companies. Instead, I finished German high school and appeared here and there at concerts and so on.

 

Movements

Did you stop writing your own songs then?

 

Mariangela

No, I never stopped. In the early eighties I went to Germany and lived in Munich. There I met people who wanted to promote me but it wasn’t possible to do anything again because of my contract. I recorded some songs for a German movie called “Der Durchdreher” by Helmut Dietl, a still famous German film producer. In the end and as far as I can remember he only used one of the songs "Do love you”, an acoustic song with guitars and some vocals, which again was never released.

 

At that time I also recorded an LP with Abi Ofarim, a famous producer and artist in Germany. Those songs were not mine. I sang solo and duets with Abi. It was a very nice and expensive production with several other fine artists, but in the end it was never published, because he went bankrupt at that time.

 

Movements

Hmmm, sounds you haven’t had much luck getting your music released…

 

Mariangela

No, not at all… it seems like I was in the wrong places at the wrong times. Anyway, finally after a couple of more disappointments I got fed up with it all and turned my mind towards things that fascinated me just as much…. I went on my spiritual quest.

 

Movements

Your spiritual quest?

 

Mariangela

Yes, first I got into studying some Christian texts, but too many questions remained unanswered. I’m naturally too critical to settle with plain blind faith, so then I got into Hinduism for a while, fasting and using creativity in a spiritual way. It was a great and educating time where I also learned a bit about the Ayurvedic kind of living in order to live a healthy life, but still I wasn’t satisfied, there were still too many questions left unanswered. Finally I met with Tibetan Buddhism. I received teachings from many great Tibetan teachers in Europe and in India, but in the end I devoted myself to a very special teacher, Ven.Lama Gendun Rinpoche. I met him in the eighties and he passed away in 1997. He was an old lama who had lived as a hermit in caves and retreats for over 30 years and whose teacher had then sent him to Europe to pass on his knowledge. I studied and meditated following his instructions and also accomplished a three-year retreat together with other students of his from 1986 to 1990.

 

Movements

Really? Surely that is not something one hears every day. I’m impressed! Now I understand how you learned some Tibetan :-) How did the education work?

 

Mariangela

During these three and a half years one meditates all day long (with intervals between the sessions) while receiving and putting into practice the transmissions of this particular Tibetan Buddhist tradition, in this case called the Karma Kagyu School. There are four schools in Tibet, this is one of them. Since I completed this education and practice, my teacher gave me the title 'lama" meaning that I am authorized to teach and transmit meditation methods to others who may be interested.

 

Movements

And do you teach?

 

Mariangela

I’ve taught in several Buddhist centers throughout the years, especially here in Athens. I still teach meditation once or twice a week, unless I’m gone somewhere else.

 

Movements

Where do you live nowadays?

 

Mariangela

Well in 1990 I returned to Greece, got married and a year later my son Daniel was born. In 1993 I recorded a new album “Zahari” with the Greek record company Lyra. The LP has 10 songs all of which are my composition and lyrics. I did the arrangement together with my brother.

 

All songs on this album are in Greek. I had written many English songs that represented me much better at that time, but no one was interested in publishing English material… So I had to compromise and write Greek lyrics instead. The songs are not so bad but I know my abilities and I can't say that I'm truly satisfied with the result. I then performed in several places, but since no offers for further recordings came I decided to devote myself to raising my son.

 

Movements

I noticed on both your albums you only use your first name “Mariangela”?

 

Mariangela

Actually until recently I was only using my first name as my artistic name, never my long full name. Now I use my middle name as well and appear as “Mariangela Celeste”. Celeste by the way was the name of my Italian grandmother.

 

Movements

Are you currently working on any new projects? What are your plans for the future?

 

Mariangela

Last year I was in Munich and recorded some songs there. The songs are partly upbeat, love songs with a touch of new age sound to them as well. The lyrics were written by a very famous Tibetan lama who lived in 17th century, I wrote my own music to the translated lyrics that are in English, but sing them also in Tibetan. I hope they will come out soon. I’m still looking at offers.

Besides that I’ve been asked to write songs for other artists as well.

 

Actually I’m going through a very creative phase at the moment. Very recently I wrote another series of 12 songs that are mostly spacious or upbeat ballads. I’d like to put these out on another CD as well :-)

 

I’m also seriously considering selling my music through the internet from now on. We’ll see. You’ll be the first one to know!

 

Movements

Thanks, I'm really looking forward hearing your recent songs! By the way. do you still perform in public?

 

Mariangela

Yes, in fact I do. I always loved to sing. I consider singing part of my being and a way through which I spontaneously connect with and find balance and harmony within my heart. Music in general is a powerful way for transmitting and receiving vibrations or energies on many levels, and depending on the quality they have then they can either be uplifting, liberating or they can cause obscurity or even total confusion in ones psyche. This isn’t anything new. So yes, last winter I sang with my guitar in a club and it was real fun, but right now I’m not appearing live.

 

Movements

Hopefully I’ll have the chance to come by and see you perform the next time!

 

Mariangela

Sure, you’re definitely welcome! I’ll let you know when the occasion arises!

 

Movements

Mariangela, thank you for taking the time for this interview and sharing your memories with us! I’m sure many people will enjoy reading this just as much as I did :-)

 

Mariangela

You’re very welcome. I thank you as well, and please stay happy :-)

Tot ziens!

 

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