On Sunday, 17 December 2023, with the blessing of His Eminence Archbishop Makarios of Australia and in the presence of His Grace Bishop Evmenios of Kerasounta, Archiepiscopal Vicar of Northcote, the “Carols by Candlelight” event took place at the outdoor venue St John’s Greek Orthodox College in Preston, Melbourne.
This year’s event, attended by the Holy Clergy and thousands of Greek faithful from Melbourne and the wider State of Victoria, was dedicated to the memory of the late Stelios Tsiolas, the “soul” of the institution, who fell asleep in the Lord a few weeks ago. For this reason, Stelios’ wife, Roula Tsiolas, and his three sons along with their spouses attended the event and received an honorary plaque in his memory.
His Grace Bishop Evmenios of Kerasounta, during his short address at the beginning of the event, after conveying the blessings of His Eminence Archbishop Makarios of Australia and thanked all the contributors and sponsors of the event, mentioned with respect and emotion and referred to the person of the music composer, Mr. Stelios Tsiolas, as well as his valuable contribution to the annual event organised by the Holy Archdiocese of Australia. He pointed out that “Stelios was known in our community for his passion for music and he generously gave his knowledge and his services to anyone who asked of them”. “He was one of the people who really served what he did like a simple soldier”, he added, while recalling that he wrote the music for many theatrical productions, collaborated with many cultural organisations of the Greek Community, while a milestone in his career was his collaboration as a conductor , with Mikis Theodorakis, in 1991.
Focusing on the contribution of the Late Mr. Tsiolas at the Christmas carols event, His Grace pointed out that he was one of its main contributors throughout the years. “From the moment the Carols of the Holy Archdiocese of Australia began, his presence was deemed necessary every year. He was its originator in Melbourne. He was the one who, with his smile and love, made hundreds of people love this event,” he noted.
Bishop Evmenios also noted that the venue where the event was hosted, St. John’s College, Preston, was familiar to the late Stelios Tsiolas, as he collaborated with this particular school for 18 years “bringing thousands of children of all ages close to the art of music, who, even after their graduation, followed him to any event he deemed necessary”.
Finally, His Grace Bishop Evmenios thanked his family, who graced the event with their presence, and invited Mrs. Tsiolas to the stage to hand her an honorary plaque in recognition of Stelios Tsiola’s valuable work, on behalf of the Holy Archdiocese of Australia and His Eminence Archbishop Makarios of Australia.
After receiving the honorary plaque, in her message of thanks, Mrs. Roula Tsiolas said: “Your Grace, Reverend fathers, official guests, fellow artists of our beloved Stelios, academics, past and present students of Saint John’s College, families of the wider Greek Orthodox community, my family and I feel very honoured and grateful that we are all here together tonight: to pray together, even in song, in this very difficult time for us. We are grateful and deeply moved by the contribution of the Holy Archdiocese of Australia for this event, in honour of our Stelios, a celebration that for over 39 whole years was an annually a large part in the life of our Stelios, which meant so much to him.
The good news about Christmas is that, even as our personal or worldly circumstances change, the sacred message of Christmas remains timeless. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We celebrate how he came to give us love, hope and joy. Although as a family we are deep in mourning, full of sadness and pain, we thank you all for this tribute that has warmed our hearts. May God always bless all of your families, but especially this Christmas, and I’d like to add, never take it for granted that you’ll always be able to hug your loved ones and tell them you love them! A Merry and blessed Christmas to you all. Thank you all very much.”
Afterwards, the choir groups that participated in this year’s event took the floor, which amazed all those present. The optimistic message about the Nativity of the God-Man, Jesus Christ, was given again this year by all age groups who participated in the choirs. With their love, their passion, and their discipline, they confirmed their enthusiasm for the event and their anticipation to participate every year.
The groups who participated, in order of appearance, were: The Byzantine Choir of the Holy Archdiocese of Australia, The Byzantine Choir of Saint John’s College, both primary and Highschool, Aetolian College “Saint Kosmas Aetolos”, Oakleigh Grammar, Epirote choir under the guidance of Fr Stavros Kakavas, “Pericles” Dance group, Central Pontian Association of Melbourne and Victoria “Pontiaki Estia”,
Archdiocesan Choir – Orchestration: Stelios Tsiolas – George Stavrou.
The event was concluded in a most impressive way, with the arrival of Agios Vasilis, who distributed sweets and chocolates to the children, while in the sky hundreds of fireworks literally turned night into day.