CHAPTER 5: Dulcimers in other countries since 1800 > Eastern Europe
Greece - 3 of 4: Triangle at Rhodes
And then in 2003 I discovered that London Weekend Television had featured a santouri very prominently in the soundtrack of their 1989 production of Agatha Christie's Poirot story Triangle at Rhodes, although the only musicians we see on screen are the players of lyra and lauto in the restaurant.
Santouri-connoisseur Nick Foggo writes:
Well we had to go out and find a copy and I found one round the corner in my lunchbreak at Past Times.
It's not the worst Poirot episode I've seen, just right for a gentle evening after a day's work, and the santouri music is really quite charming; the variations on the Poirot theme are also quite nifty.
Of the Greek tunes (not many) the opening one that gets repeated at intervals is "Sousta Rodou", the best known local dance (actually it's Italian).
I have a feeling that it may have been a santouri-player living in Athens but originally from Rhodes who I saw in my student youth and we became reacquainted with a few years ago.
The santouri plays three different styles:
One is the well-established Poirot signature tune, played 'straight' on a saxophone to begin and end each episode, but here an integral part of the whole film score, ornamented in a variety of ways to suit the santouri.
Then there are other regular tunes, presumably Greek folk tunes (if anyone has more comments than Nick Foggo's above, do let me know).
And finally there are atmospherics, presumably improvised.
The santouri is played without any other instrument, mostly just a single-line melody, though there are a few passages with a bass line under.
There seem to one or two plucked bass notes, otherwise it's hammers all the way. Mostly hard hammers are used, but there's a change to soft ones at special times: the first time they are used, it's to set a muted evening atmosphere, although shortly after that the hard hammers come back as activity increases ...
I haven't taken the time to check thoroughly, but I have the impression that the soft hammers are always used in one key, the hard hammers in another, I can't immediately see why, unless they were using two different diatonic instruments ... I suppose it can just be an extreme sensitivity to the suitability of different keys for different atmospheres
- like in renaissance and baroque times, with soft recorders and F-major for shepherds making love under Venus, loud trumpets and D-major for a warlike atmosphere under Mars.
On the excursion to the top of the cliff, the scene is first painted with soft hammers, changing to hard ones as the deadly snake comes into view.
Mostly the different styles are kept separate, but at one point the Poirot theme alternates with some tense unfinished chromatic phrases, at another something which might be a simple Greek folk tune is interrupted with the same kind of effect.
The 'Poirot' theme:
Lyra and lauto:
Here are two extracts, first as they play moving between the tables ("Do we have to have this, we can't hear ourselves speak!"), the second rather softer, as Poirot decides to order the bowels in spit, and the scene moves to outside the restaurant; the second also features a tantalising few seconds of singing, which we could have gladly heard a lot more of ...
The names of individual players are not mentioned in the final credits, it just says 'Music: Christopher Gunning'.
It's a lovely production, currently available on VHS and DVD in Britain ...