Tikey Zes was raised in Southern California and completed his doctoral studies at USC, having studied composition under renowned neo-classicist Ingolf Dahl. Dr. Zes, however, soon relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he assumed musical directorship of both the Berkeley Chamber Singers, with whom he recorded the music of Ockeghem, and the Greek Orthodox Church (now Cathedral) of the Ascension in Oakland. He later moved to San Jose, where he became Professor of Composition at San Jose State University and choir director of the Greek Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas.
Throughout his career, Dr. Zes tirelessly worked for the improvement of Greek-American liturgical music. He has composed extensively in both Greek and English for the Orthodox liturgy, cultivating a graceful style of polyphony based on the modes and melodies of Byzantine chant. In addition, he has served frequently as a guest conductor and clinician throughout the United States. For his distinguished service to the Orthodox Church, the Ecumenical Patriarchate awarded him the offikion of “Archon Lampadarios,” a title customarily bestowed on the director of the left choir in the patriarchal chapel. He also was awarded the Medallion of St. Romanos the Melodist for his exemplary service to Orthodox sacred music in the Archdiocese of America by the National Forum of Greek Orthodox Church Musicians. Upon retiring from his post at San Jose State, Dr. Zes assumed directorship of the Music Ministry programme of the Greek Orthodox Diocese of San Francisco.
In addition to liturgical music, the vocal works of Dr. Zes include a song cycle for high voice and piano on poems by Cavafy and quite a number of choral arrangements of Greek folk songs, two of which are presented on the present disk. The first is from the southernmost Ionian Island of Kythera, which was successively administered by the Venetians, the French, and the British before acceding to the Greek kingdom in 1864. Telling the tale of a jilted lover, this song was brought to the attention of Dr. Zes by the eminent ethnographer and musicologist Markos Dragoumis, with whom he studied Byzantine chant. The second is a setting of a famous klephtic song describing the hit-and-run tactics of armed brigands (“klephtes”) who resisted Turkish authority during the long centuries of Ottoman occupation. Rather unusually, Dr. Zes sets not one but several traditional melodies for this song, juxtaposing and ultimately combining them polyphonically.