By Kathy Meck*, President Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco Church Music Federation

The Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco Church Music Federation held their annual summer conference, “Church Musicfest Under the Byzantine Dome”, from June 27 – 30, 2013 at Saint Sophia Cathedral in Los Angeles, California. The conference attracted over 130 musicians who participated in the adult and youth choirs and Byzantine chant group. The co-chairs for the conference were: Christopher Yokas, Brent Noyes and Jim Kollias.

2013 Choir Leadership1

(L-R) Christopher Yokas, Conference Organist; Maria Keritsis, National Chairman of the National Forum of Greek Orthodox Church Musicians; James Kollias, Conference Adult Choir Director; Rev. Fr. John Bakas, Dean, Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral; His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos; Rev. Fr. Apostolos Hill, Conference Byzantine Chant Director; Athena Mertes, Conference Youth Choir Director; Kathy Meck, Federation President (term ending July 31, 2013); Rev. Fr. Gabriel Boyd; Elizabeth Levy, Federation President (term beginning August 1, 2013).

The conference began with an official meeting of the Federation delegates from parishes throughout the Metropolis. The meeting included various committee reports and the election of officers. Elected for a two-year term beginning August 1, 2013 are: Elizabeth Levy (Resurrection Church – Castro Valley, CA), President; Athena Anastos (Assumption – Scottsdale, AZ), Vice President; Costa Kourtis (Assumption – Long Beach, CA), Treasurer; Kay Harkins (Saint Spyridon – San Diego, CA), Secretary. 

Friday’s schedule included an informative vocal workshop by Nancy Stuck, a respected music educator in southern California. Her workshop applied lessons in vocal techniques to the Liturgical music that was being sung throughout the weekend. Various conductors in the Metropolis then led a New Music Read-Through, introducing Liturgical hymns from different composers to expand the repertoire of the choirs. The focus of the weekend was the preparation for the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, which featured musical arrangements by Dr. Frank Desby, of blessed memory, and Dr. Tikey Zes. The adult choir was led by Jim Kollias from Saint Sophia Cathedral in Los Angeles. The Youth Choir was under the direction of Athena Mertes from Saint John the Baptist Church in Las Vegas, Nevada. Rev. Father Apostolos Hill from Saint George Church in Prescott, Arizona coordinated the Byzantine Chant choir. Christopher Yokas from Saint Sophia Cathedral served as the organist.

After the rehearsals concluded on Saturday, the Federation delegates participated in a Town Hall Meeting to obtain feedback from the members regarding communications, the growth of the Federation, and the needs of the future. Later this summer, the incoming Federation leadership will meet with His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos to share the outcome and work together to strengthen this important ministry.

Following Great Vespers on Saturday evening, the Federation members gathered for the Grand Banquet at which several people were honored including Mrs. Theodora Zes as the recipient of the Saints Cosmas and John the Damascene icon award for exceptional devotion to the Federation. Vasiliki Kyriakakis from Saint Demetrios in Tucson, Arizona received the Patriarch Athenagoras Distinguished Service Medal for distinguished service, having been the Southwest Regional Administrator for the Federation for over 12 years. Bringing greetings from the National Forum of Greek Orthodox Church Musicians was Maria Keritsis, National Chairman. His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos presented a Certificate of Recognition to Kathy Meck, who has been serving as President for the past six years and whose term will conclude later this summer. He commended Kathy for her leadership of the Federation and her ongoing commitment to church music.

During his Keynote Address, Metropolitan Gerasimos challenged the Federation to continue growing musically as well as spiritually, and to be an example of our faith through their ministry. He emphasized the importance of engaging our congregations in worship and using music as a tool to educate our faithful. Metropolitan Gerasimos also addressed the need to build up music programs for our youth to keep them active in the Liturgical life of the church.

The weekend culminated with the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy on Sunday celebrated by His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos. The angelic sounds filled the Cathedral and uplifted the congregation as they joined with the choir singing some of the hymns and responses for the Liturgy. His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos commended the church musicians for their devotion to this important ministry and challenged them to reach out to others and share their enthusiasm and love for the music of our church with others so that this beautiful tradition can continue to grow and thrive for future generations.

*Kathy Meck has been serving as the President of the Metropolis of San Francisco Church Music Federation since August 2007 and will step down from office this summer. She is the choir director at Saint Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church in San Diego, CA.