Georgia Topal Tangires, a retired music director of the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation who served her congregation for decades, died of Parkinson’s disease complications July 21 at the Maryland Masonic Home Rehabilitation Center in Hunt Valley. She was 86 and lived in Ruxton.
Born in Baltimore and raised on Edmondson Avenue, she was the daughter of Charles Kyriakos Topal (Topaltzas) and his wife, Irene Moraitou, Greek immigrants from Karabourna in Asia Minor. The family owned and operated Edmondson Lunch and the Majestic Pie Co. She was a 1949 graduate of Western High School, where she led a glee club and performed with the school orchestra. While a student she attracted the attention of Emile H. Serposs, who directed a music program in city public schools. Mr. Serposs encouraged her and suggested she play piano and accompany student choral performances.
Georgia received a scholarship to the Peabody Conservatory of Music and upon graduation in 1953, was bestowed The Harold Randolph Award for outstanding achievement. Her teachers included Ifor Jones for conducting, Pasquale Tallarico for piano, Justin Williams for voice, and Bruce Eicher for organ. She also led the school’s preparatory chorus classes and was a substitute harmony teacher. She was an active member of the Baltimore Chapter of American Guild of Organists, MENC, the National Association of Teachers of Singing, and the Choristers Guild. She accompanied the Maryland State Chorus. Her daughter, Helen Tangires of Washington, said her mother often mentioned her Peabody classmate and friend, Tommy Newsom, a saxophone player who appeared frequently on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.
She joined the Baltimore Department of Education and taught music at the old Edmondson High School. She also taught at then-Villa Julie College, now Stevenson University, and at the Samuel Ready School, where she sat on the board of trustees.
In 1954 she married William Tangires, who owed Blue Top Diners, a business that included 24 mobile lunch wagons based on Boston Street in Canton. They settled in Ruxton in 1970.
In 1977, Georgia spearheaded the formation of the Eastern Federation of Greek Orthodox Church Choirs. She conducted the Federation’s First Conference in 1977 and 3 subsequent Conferences in 1980, 1981, and 1999.
Georgia represented the Eastern Federation at the 1st annual meeting of the National Forum in Denver and was a panelist in the workshop “The Clergy and the Choir: A Partnership” along with Father George Gallos and others.
The National Forum’s first National Choir School was held at the Annunciation Cathedral in Baltimore in August of 1985, a ten day event under the direction of Anna and Father Gallos, Georgia Tangires, and Paul Mavromihalis.
Georgia was the director of the Church Music Institute for Organ held at the Cathedral in 1989, 1990, and 1991 which was co-sponsored by the Forum and the Eastern Federation. They were acclaimed as “very successful and very well executed.”
She helped develop one of the first official position papers entitled “The Use of the Organ” adopted by the Forum in 1985.
Georgia wrote the first article for the National Forum’s MUSICA series, entitled “The Use of the Organ in the Greek Orthodox Church”.
She developed the handbook entitled “Repertoire for the Greek Orthodox Church Organist” co-published by the National Forum which contains arrangements by Georgia Tangires and others, considered appropriate for use during Orthodox services and also includes guidelines and suggestions for organists.
“She loved to play at weddings,” said Ms. Tangires, her daughter. “My mother adapted the organ and applied modern techniques of conducting for Greek Orthodox liturgical music. Her choir was versed in both Byzantine chant and four-part harmony, in Greek and English.”
In 1990 Georgia was awarded the St. Romanos the Melodist Medallion for Exemplary Archdiocesan Service, the highest national honor given to a church musician by the National Forum of Greek Orthodox Church Musicians. She was also presented with the Archdiocesan Cross in Orlando, Florida.
Georgia conducted numerous workshops at Clergy Laity Congresses, National Forum Meetings, and Federation Conferences. She presented compositions, lectures, and served as conductor and organist at various conferences and performed at St. Bartholomew’s Church in New York City.
In 1996, the Annunciation parish presented a testimonial luncheon in her honor with numerous congratulatory letters from dignitaries, nationally and locally, including the Mayor and Baltimore City Council who declared the festive day, “Georgia Tangires Day.”
Georgia served the Annunciation Cathedral for over six decades as choir member, organist, and director of music. She also served as the choir director at St. Nicholas in Baltimore's Greektown for almost 10 years. During her tenure as director, she participated in hierarchical services and programs for Patriarchs Demetrios and Bartholomew, Archbishops Michael, Iakovos, Spyridon, and Demetrios. She retired from the cathedral in 2010 and continued to be a beloved mentor to many.
She enjoyed bird watching and observing animal life, and spent time at Ocean City and Bethany Beach, DE, and at Black Water Falls, WV.
Georgia will lie in repose at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation, 24 W. Preston St., from 10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Friday, when her funeral services will begin.
In addition to her husband of 64 years and her daughter, survivors include two other daughters, Dimitra Tangires and Mary Wojnowski, both of the Eastern Shore; and many nieces and nephews.
May Her Memory Be Eternal!