The Federation of Greek Orthodox Church Musicians of the Direct Archdiocesan District held its 29th Annual Conference during the weekend of October 12th and 13th, hosted by Archangel Michael Church in Port Washington, NY.  Church musicians from 15 Direct Archdiocesan District churches participated in the Conference whose theme was “Singing to the Lord with One Voice.’  The participating parishes were the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, NYC; Archangel Michael Church, Port Washington, NY; Assumption Church, Danbury, CT; Assumption Church, Port Jefferson, NY; Cathedral of SS Constantine & Helen, Brooklyn, NY; Cathedral of Saint Paul, Hempstead, NY; Holy Resurrection Church, Brookville, NY; Holy Trinity Church, Bridgeport, CT; Holy Trinity Church, Hicksville, NY; Holy Trinity Church, New Rochelle, NY; SS Catherine & George Church, Astoria, NY; Saint Nicholas Church, Flushing, NY; Saint Paraskevi Church, Greenlawn, NY; Transfiguration of Christ Church, Mattituck, NY; and Zoodohos Peghe Church, Bronx, NY. 

            Archangel Michael’s senior and youth choir members prepared delicious morning refreshments and warmly welcomed the church musicians as they arrived for the Conference. Archangel Michael’s Proistamenos Fr. Dennis Strouzas and Federation President Anna Dounelis, who presided over the Annual Council Meeting, opened the Conference with prayers and a letter from His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, welcoming everyone to the Conference.  After the meeting, Conference attendees participated in a rehearsal for the Sunday Liturgy, followed by a ‘Vocal Techniques‘ workshop presented by Ms. Marina Alexander, Adjunct Assistant Professor at the College of Staten Island-CUNY for 15 years teaching Conducting and Musical History. Ms. Alexander is Director of The Richmond Chorale and The Metropolitan Chorale in NYC and The Arcadian Chorale in NJ.  

            Prior to the scrumptious luncheon buffet, prepared by some of Archangel Michael’s excellent cooks, Fr. Nikolas Karloutsos, Archangel Michael presbyter, offered welcoming remarks and a prayer.  After lunch, Rev. Deacon Chrysostomos Gilbert of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Office of the Chancellor, delivered the Keynote Address.  Deacon Chrysostomos, a graduate of Hellenic College/Holy Cross Seminary, is a gifted musician with an extensive musical background. 

            Afternoon activities included an Art Workshop conducted by Eleni Pitzel, an artist who has shown her work at various galleries including the Monroe Gallery in NJ and the Asian Fusion Gallery in NYC.   Mrs. Pitzel is a choir member at the Cathedral of Saint Paul, Hempstead, NY and offers art classes free of charge to Saint Paul’s parishioners and at the Golden Age Organization in Mineola, NY.  The next workshop was ‘The Sunday Liturgy, From a Performer’s Perspective’ presented by Eleni Traganas, acclaimed concert pianist, author, artist, composer, and choir director/organist at Zoodohos Peghe Church in Bronx, NY.   Ms. Traganas holds Bachelors and Masters Degrees from The Julliard School, has given recitals and lectures at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall, and in London, Berlin, Athens and other major European capitals.   A ‘Byzantine Chant’ workshop followed, presented by Eleftherios Eleftheriades, Protopsaltis at St. Nicholas Church in Flushing, NY and Byzantine Chant instructor at the William Spyropoulos School in Flushing.   Mr. Eleftheriades has performed at sold-out audiences at the Baisley Powell Recital Hall and the Proshansky Auditorium in NYC.  

            The last workshop of the day, ‘Congregational Singing–The Missing Piece,’ was presented by Phoebe Kamelakis Leask, senior choir director/organist at Holy Trinity Church in Bridgeport, CT.  Mrs. Leask, a 20-year member of the Fairfield County Chorale, currently serves on the Board of Directors of Director Rotary Zone Singers (Rotary International) and is a past president of the Music & Arts Center for the Handicapped.  The day concluded with the Annual Dinner/Dance, a delightful evening of Greek dancing, delicious food and good friends, at Dilettos Restaurant in Westbury, NY,

            On Sunday morning, an awesome choir of 89 senior and youth choir members lifted their voices in praise to the Lord under the superb direction of Georgia Kaufman, Byzantine Youth Choir Director at Archangel Michael and the Federation’s Youth Music Liaison. Eleni Rodopoulos Kaufman, who holds a Master of Science Degree in Education and Master of Arts Degree in Music from Columbia University, is the Co-Director and Organist of Archangel Michael's Byzantine Youth Choir and skillfully accompanied the Conference Choir on the organ.  Before joining the choir in the choir loft Ms. Efrosini Katehis of Saint Paul’s Cathedral, Mrs. Eleftheria Brewster and Mrs. Sophia Niarchos of Holy Resurrection chanted at the Orthros with Archangel Michael’s Protopsaltis Andreas Modinos and Dr. Efstratios Demertzis, former Protopsaltis at the Cathedral of Saint Paul and the first-elected president of the Federation.

            Following the Divine Liturgy and the Mnemosino for church musicians who have fallen asleep in the Lord, Awards and Certificates were presented by Fr. Dennis, Fr. Nikolas and Mrs. Dounelis to the following church musicians:  ‘Choir Member 60 Years of Service’ to Joanna Rigas of Assumption, Port Jefferson, NY; ‘Choir Member of the Year 2012-2013’ to Helga Gajdjis of SS Catherine & George, Astoria, NY; ‘Choir Director 25 Years of Service’ to Georgia Kaufman of Archangel Michael, Port Washington, NY; ‘Federation Scholarship for 2013’ to Maria Zoulis of Holy Trinity, New Rochelle, NY; ‘Patriarch Athenagoras I Medallion’ for Distinguished Metropolis Service to Nicholas Pappas of Archangel Michael, Port Washington, NY; and ‘The Archbishop Iakovos Distinguished Service Award’ to Constantine Gajdjis, in recognition of his 50+ years as choir director/organist at SS Catherine & George, Astoria, NY.  A group photo taken with Fr. Dennis, Fr. Nikolas, Federation Officers: President Anna Dounelis, Vice President Vasso Patrikis, Treasurer Irini Kapareliotis, Recording Secretary Fay Pavlidis, Corresponding Secretary Peggy Stilianos, Youth Music Liaison Georgia Kaufman, and the Conference choir was followed by a delightful reception provided by the Philoptochos.

            Each Annual Conference offers church musicians from across our metropolis opportunities for fellowship, fun and learning where they renew old friendships and make new friends. Everyone returns to his or her parish with a renewed commitment and enthusiasm to serve the Lord.  Days after the Conference, one choir member’s comment spoke volumes, …”I am still basking in the glow of this year’s Annual Conference and looking forward to next year.”