Situated in the heart of Manhattan at 48th Street and 5th Avenue, the Swedish Church really is an oasis for Scandinavians and non-Scandinavians alike. You can drop by just to read Swedish newspapers, get coffee and homemade cinnamon buns (quite possibly the best in town) or you can stay and check out some of the many activities and events taking place there, such as concerts and movies. On May 19, American concert pianist Eleni Traganas will be there to play a concert of pieces by Chopin and Grieg.
Eleni Traganas is an American concert pianist of Greek descent. Though never having been to Sweden—or any of the Scandinavian countries—Traganas claims she feels a “strong pull” in that direction. So strong that she asked specifically to play at New York’s Church of Sweden. Traganas met her destiny—the keyboard—at the tender age of 5 and trained at the famed Juilliard School of Music in New York.
“I found a piano in a church basement and it was love at first sight,” she explains. “There was never any music in my home, but I found my own path.”
She begged her parents for a piano and was first given a toy piano. Although that was fun, she knew it wasn’t the real thing. Eventually, after endless tears and whining, her parents caved in and bought her a real piano. Traganas was then 8 years old. After studying classical piano, she traded New York City for Europe, where she lived for twenty years.
“I spent ten years in Greece and ten in Germany,” Traganas says. “I’ve always had an affinity for the north. The Greeks didn’t shun me, but let’s just say that my personality wasn’t exactly in tune with the prevailing tenor of life there. I’m a perfectionist and I like the order that the Germans have.”
So what, apart from being partial to the north, brings Traganas to the Swedish Church?
“I attended a concert here a couple of years ago,” she says, “and was impressed by the atmosphere, the organ and the warmth of everyone. Lage (Forsberg, cantor at the church), for instance, has been wonderful.”
When Traganas isn’t sitting at the piano playing or composing, she paints and writes. Her debut novel, “Twelfth House,” was published four months ago.
Traganas' concert takes place at the Swedish Church on May 19 at 7 p.m.
For more info: www.svenskakyrkan.se