Lorrie Doriza, the talented Greek-American granddaughter of a popular singer from 1930’s Greece, recently released an album of songs she lovingly re-created from her grandfather Tony Rais’ long-lost sheet music.
Making the story even more remarkable is the fact that her grandfather, Tony Apostolopoulos — who went by the stage name of Tony Rais — lost his vocal cords to cancer in the 1940s; he was never able to sing again, and his songs had not been recorded before he lost his voice.
Rais’ career was tragically cut short, Lorrie Doriza relates to Greek Reporter, “just as access to music recording technology became available in postwar Greece. After his vocal cords were removed, it shattered any hopes that he’d ever sing again, let alone record the songs he made famous.
“He spoke with an electrolarynx machine for the rest of his life and those songs haven’t been heard since. My mom never knew what her father’s voice sounded like.”
Granddaughter’s soaring soprano gives voice to Pappou’s songs
After the surgery, Rais would occasionally strum a guitar while accompanying his old musician friends at the local taverna — but that was all he did in the music world for the rest of his life.
Doriza relates to Greek Reporter “My mom tells me that despite the absolute tragedy of losing his speaking and singing voice, as well as his job, he was never bitter or resentful and instead turned his creativity elsewhere.
For the rest of his life, the onetime singer devoted his energies to intricate wood carving, creating large wooden bird cages which were works of art in themselves.
One of his masterpieces, so large that a person could walk into it, was kept in his backyard. But he was the only one allowed to enter the cage and tend to his beloved birds.
Tony Rais persevered after voice loss but discouraged daughter from singing
“I’m sure there’s some poetry and symbolism in that,” Doriza notes, before adding,”Just the thought of losing my voice, means losing my identity. I can’t imagine the strength and resilience it took for him to get through it. I’m not sure I would’ve done it with the same grace.”
Born in Athens, and living for years in Belgium, Australia, and Japan, Doriza has been based in New York City, where she performs regularly.
Asked by Greek Reporter how her mother remembers her father coping with this great loss, the singer replies “This is a big mystery still. My mother was only six when this happened and she doesn’t even remember his speaking voice, let alone his singing voice.
“I do know that in our own archive, there wasn’t a trace of the sheet music for the songs he made famous, and very little evidence, aside from some photos and one acoustic guitar, that he was even a musician. That’s why finding the sheet music was such a shock.
“I don’t know for sure how he reacted, but in my mind’s eye I picture him putting all of the sheet music in a bin and silently lighting it all on fire.”
Despite the fact that not only he, but his beloved wife Lorrie were musicians, and their daughter almost inevitably inherited great musical talent, he discouraged their daughter from going into the music industry because of how dangerous it was for young women at the time, Doriza relates.
“My mom took secret opera lessons, just for fun (or maybe because it wasn’t allowed), and he found out and forbade her from continuing. She took up drawing instead.
“Knowing what I know now, who knows if there was more to it than what he was saying. As a musician myself, I know how difficult the life of a musician is, especially as a female musician, even more so back then.
“With all the extra agony he suffered and the mistreatment and abuse of women in the music industry that he surely witnessed first hand and was even more rampant in those days, perhaps he just wanted to protect her,” Doriza explains to Greek Reporter.
“Unfortunately,” she adds, “he passed away one year before I was born so I never got to meet him. My mom really pushed me to take music lessons, I think she saw a part of him in me.”
And now, his talented granddaughter has not only rediscovered the sheet music to all of her grandfather’s old cabaret songs he sang in 1930s and 1940s Greece, she has sung them herself and had them orchestrated — all during the lockdown of the past year.
This stunning musical feat — and work of love — may be unique in the entire world.
As Doriza says, it “spans three generations, six years of research and never-before-heard Greek music that hs been brought to life after more than eighty years.”
It all came about when Doriza wanted to find a special way to celebrate her mother’s 70th birthday last year; she suddenly came upon the intriguing idea of putting together an album of the songs that her grandfather never got a chance to record.
Her mother’s father, who went by the stage name of Tony Rais, “was a singer and ‘diseur’ of the Old Athens era of Greek music back in the 30s and 40s,” she relates. “This wasn’t your typical bouzouki style of music. This was Euro-inspired cabaret and vaudeville, something many Greeks don’t even know about.
“Tony Rais was a rising star in the scene and was well-known, singing with famous singers, even being invited to sing at the Greek Royal Palace, working with acclaimed composers, really doing well,” she tells Greek Reporter.
“As a singer myself, I can’t imagine what he must have gone through, so I wanted to try and put some pieces together,” she says.
Doriza tells Greek Reporter “I’ve always sung and was self-taught to a degree, the same kind of degree when you’re singing along and imitating your favorite singers, but I eventually took classical voice lessons at 16 where for a handful of years I trained as a coloratura soprano.
“Cut to 70ish years later, my brother, a historian, and I started doing a little digging and after hounding music libraries, collectors and archives, I discovered the remnants of ten scores with his photo on the cover, or a dedication to him in the notes, from the 30s and 40s. These were songs that he had made famous in his live club performances.”
Leonardos Kounadis, Nikos Sdregas, Nektarios Antoniadis, Panos Mavraganis, and Constantina Stamatoyannaki were just some of the musical archivists who helped Doriza in her quest.
The collections she delved into include the ΕΛΙΑ/ΜΙΕΤ, Kounadis Archive, and The Lilian Voudouri Music Library of Greece, all located in Athens.
Treasure trove of Tony Rais sheet music gives life to his voice
This treasure trove of history, very valuable in itself, was used to give life to her grandfather’s voice once again.
However, as Doriza says, “A project that started out as a gift for my mom’s 70th birthday turned into… an obsession. Over the past year, my collaborator Dan Wilson and I took the sheet music to these songs, re-imagined and re-orchestrated them for small orchestra, then had musicians record themselves from their homes (during quarantine!) to bring these songs to life.
“I sang the songs my grandfather sang in the hopes that you can hear his voice through mine.”
Already a well-established singer, Doriza is currently a second-year composer at the prestigious BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop and has released her first short-length musical, entitled “The Masterpiece.”
She is also currently working on her second album as part of the group Vespertina, with Stoupe, and is developing a full-length musical.
Now, her album of ten songs of beautiful, never-before-heard Greek music has been released to the world. As Doriza says, she believes the album “has the power to touch the hearts of many.”
The album, entitled “I Could Never Let You Leave Me,” quickly blossomed into something more than just a simple gift to her mother on her 70th birthday, as any listener can appreciate.
Her collaborator, Dan Wilson, and Doriza re-arranged the songs that had been left to decay for almost a century and brought them back to life, with fresh instrumentation that respected and highlighted the original ensembles.
The end product is undoubtedly very much like what these songs may have sounded when they were performed live so long ago.
“Tony Rais may have lost his voice, but my hope is that you’ll be able to hear it through mine,” Doriza adds.
If you are interested in learning more about this incredible labor of love, or listening to some of Doriza’s songs of her grandfather, please head to her English-language website, here, or her Greek-language website, here. Please note that the password for the websites is TonyRais.
Her Facebook page can be reached by clicking here and you may listen to the album on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, and Apple Music.
The album may be purchased by clicking on this link here.