This month, in recognition of Greek Orthodox Easter, we introduce you to five devoted west coast musical contributors. Combined, they have been composing, arranging, directing, or performing for over 400 years … to that, we offer a collective Axios!
Dr. Tikey Zes: When it comes to a signature piece of music, Dr. Tikey Zes has scored at the top with his arrangement of “Soma Christou.” It is so beloved, that Orthodox choir members throughout the SF Metropolis can sing it at the drop of a hat. In fact, Axios Music celebrated the hymn with a unique and beautiful virtual choir that lives on YouTube (visit bit.ly/AXIOS-SomaChristou). Dr. Zes has been directing Greek Orthodox choirs since 1953 and has been director of the St. Nicholas Choir of San Jose, CA since 1971. A retired professor in the Music Department at San Jose State University, he was also appointed Music Minister for the San Francisco Diocese in 1993. In addition to his workshops and guest conducting throughout the country, he has composed/arranged extensively for the services of the Orthodox Church, including five liturgies with one in English (denver.churchmusic.goarch.org/publications-catalog/). He has also written numerous arrangements/compositions for chorus/piano based on Greek folk and popular songs (churchmusic.goarch.org/publications/availablemusic/folksecular).
Dr. Theodore Bogdanos: Born in the United States and raised in Greece, Dr. Theodore Bogdanos, returned to America following WWII, receiving his Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley. As Professor of English and European Literature for the Middle Ages, he taught at San Jose State University for twenty-six years. He has done extensive research in the U.S. and in Europe in Byzantine literature and music, publishing several studies in scholarly journals. Dr. Bogdanos has also been a cantor and choir director as well as written choral music for the Divine Liturgy and various special services for the Greek Orthodox Church. His music has been published extensively by the Denver Church Music Federation (denver.churchmusic.goarch.org/publications-catalog/ ) with its latest series the Pascha (Easter) Series for the various services of the Greek Orthodox Holy Week which includes Dr. Bogdanos’ services of Holy Tuesday Evening with its new Hymn of Kassiani.
Dr. Alexander Lingas: Choral conductor and musicologist, Dr. Alexander Lingas, received his Ph.D. in Historical Musicology from the University of British Columbia. He is a Reader in Music at City University London and a Fellow of the University of Oxford’s European Humanities Research Centre. Former Assistant Professor of Music History at Arizona State University’s School of Music, Dr. Lingas has also served as a lecturer and advisor for the Institute of Orthodox Christian Studies at the University of Cambridge. He is the Music Director and Founder of Cappella Romana (www.cappellaromana.org), the acclaimed professional vocal ensemble that performs early and contemporary sacred classical music in the Christian traditions of the East and West. In 2014, following its concerts at the Getty Villa in Southern CA, Cappella Romana sang “Christos Anesti” in memory of cantor Lycourgos Angelopoulos, professor at the School of Byzantine Chant at the Conservatory of Athens, whom Dr. Lingas studied with upon receiving Fulbright and Onassis grants (visit bit.ly/CappellaRomana_Getty).
Anna Marakas Counelis: Behind every good choral conductor is a good organist. In the case of Anna Marakas Counelis, she has proven that for over 75 years, definitely going above and beyond most expectations. Anna has been the Ascension Cathedral organist in Oakland, CA since 1941, serving during the tenures of Priests, Bishops, Metropolitans, Archbishops, and Patriarchs – and she shows no signs of slowing down. In addition to the Divine Liturgy, Orthodox Weddings, and Funerals, she was the principal organist in many Choir Federation Conferences and programs through the years as well as featured in the Bay Area community holiday concert, An International Christmas, for forty-six concerts as well as the “Holy Week and Easter Excerpts” recording, among others. In the Oakland choir loft, she plays on the cathedral’s Moller Pipe Organ, which was designed by Newton Pashley, Dr. Tikey Zes, and Anna for the specific musical requirements of Ascension Cathedral. For the musically curious, it is a two manual organ with eight ranks, unified, and one chamber. Stop by Ascension on any Sunday and you’ll hear the magnificent pipe organ come to life at the devoted hands (and feet!) of Anna.
Steve Cardiasmenos: ASCAP composer, conductor, and private instrumental music teacher, Steve Cardiasmenos has also left his mark on the Orthodox music scene. Born in Oakland, CA, he served as Assistant Director of the Ascension Liturgical Choir in Oakland in the 70s and later became the choir director at Belmont’s Holy Cross. He has played woodwind instruments since the age of five and completed his first composition at the age of fifteen in the mid-70s. In 1979, Steve participated in the recording of Ascension Liturgical Choir’s “Holy Week and Easter Excerpts” of which he contributed (pereclesmusic.com). “Perry [Phillips, conductor/producer] had great faith in me when he challenged me with the task of composing and arranging some of the hymns and responses you will hear on this recording,” he shared in the CD liner notes. He was nineteen at the time, but “Perry had a great unwavering faith in me to be able to accomplish the task.” He hasn’t looked back. A prolific composer of both sacred and secular works, his music has been published and performed nationally and internationally in both Greek and English.
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