The liturgical music of the Orthodox Church contains many riches, and discs already featured here such as Brilliant Classic’s Sacred Russian Choral Music and Liturgy of St John Christendom, and Ivan Moody’s Akáthistos Hymn are in constant rotation in my CD player. They have been joined recently by another disc from the enterprising Gagliano Recordings label, this time of music by a contemporary Greek-American composer new to me. Tikey Zes was born in Southern California in 1927, and studied with Ingolf Dahl. His career has included recording the music of Ockeghem, and holding the posts of Professor of Composition at San José State University and choir director of the Greek Orthodox Church of St Nicholas in San José, and my photo above was taken in that church.
The new Gagliano CD Tikey Zes Choral Works includes sacred pieces from the Orthodox liturgy starting with the Great Doxology. As well as liturgical music Tikey Zes has composed a song cycle for high voice and piano on poems by Cavafy, and a number of arrangements of Greek folk songs, two of which conclude the CD. The choir is the excellent Cappella Romana directed by Alexander Lingas, the same forces as those on the Akáthistos Hymn and Fall of Constantinople CDs that have featured here.
The recording venue is St Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, Portland, Oregon, and credit should go to producer Bryan Johanson and engineer David Johnson for a startlingly life-like recording. Although the Orthodox tradition is for instruments not to be used in worship, Tikey Zes follows the contemporary Greek-American practice of supporting the choir with an organ or piano, and this gives some very impressive pedal notes from organist John Vergin.
In recent years a school of composers working on the West Coast of the US has developed a new liturgical style which combines the traditions of the Greek Orthodox liturgy with the more familiar sounds of Renaissance polyphony, and this has been championed by ensembles such as Cappella Romana. The compositions and performances captured on Tikey Zes Choral Works stay true to their sacred roots, but speak in a fresh and accessible voice that should win a lot of new listeners – highly recommended.
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