Philharmonic orchestras constitute one of the greatest features of the island of Corfu and indicate the fact that Corfiots are really keen on music.
Every single time that the first day of the month is Sunday or in special religious occasions, the musicians of philharmonic orchestras, well-dressed with fancy costumes, play inspiring marches on the streets to celebrate the start of the month or any other special occasion.
Music education of Corfu dates back in the ancient times, when Homer in the Odyssey referred to a Corfiot blind musician, named Demodocus, singing of the quarrel between Odysseus and Achilles at Troy and made Homer start tearing.
Later, during the Byzantine times, the development of music on Corfu was interrupted since Byzantium as a theocratic state along with the advent of Christianity opposed instrumental music and anything related to ancient Greek culture.
During the Venetian period, an unusual music texture was created, a combination of polyphony and melodic music, based on the improvisation of balladeers and certain instruments, such as guitar and mandolin.
The first Philharmonic Society of Corfu was founded in 1840, when the island was under British occupation, since conquerors prohibited the British band from participating in the litany of the relic of St. Spyridon. This led Corfiots to establish their own Corfiot philharmonic orchestra, while many orchestras have been founded since then, maintaining the music tradition of the island. In general, at this period of time many European towns and cities used to establish new societies and associations, promoting culture, arts and each nation’s traditions.
The Philharmonic Society of Corfu was proud of having Nikolaos Halikiopoulos Mantzaros since its inception, the most eminent musician of Corfu, who was the director and one of the educators at the Society as well. Nikolaos Halikiopoulos Mantzaros has composed Greece’s National Anthem and dedicated himself to music. Moreover, the Philharmonic Society of Corfu was the first to perform the Greek National Anthem, while it also performed the Olympic Hymn in the Panathenaic Stadium in 1896, composed by the Corfiot composer Spyros Samaras. Nowadays, there are 17 Philarmonic Societies and Orchestras on the island of Corfu, while some of them are located at villages of Corfu, which participate many thousands of members – including children – in. They are non-profit organizations, aiming to promote the music culture of Corfu.