Georgia Tangires, director of music at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral, dies

Georgia Tangires was an awarding-winning Peabody Conservatory of Music graduate and the director of music at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral.

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 and his wife, Irene Moraitou, Greek immigrants from Karabourna. 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.


She received a scholarship to the Peabody Conservatory of Music, where she studied conducting under William Ifor Jones and piano with Pasquale Tallarico. She played with an orchestra led by Dr. Louis Cheslock.

She also led the school’s preparatory chorus classes and was a substitute harmony teacher. In 1953 she received the Harold Randolph Award for outstanding achievement.

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.

Mrs. Tangires became the choir director at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Highlandtown in the 1960s.

She went on to be a choir member, organist, then music director at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation, serving there for more than 65 years.


“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.”

She composed music and conducted choruses. As a musicologist, she wrote and arranged extensively for choir and organ, and developed the publication “Repertoire for the Greek Orthodox Church Organist.”

Interested in women composers, Mrs. Tangires wrote a hymn dedicated to the early medieval female composer Kassiani, who was born in Constantinople. The hymn is sung by a women’s chorus during Holy Week at Annunciation Cathedral.

While at the cathedral she directed the hierarchical programs and services for patriarchs Demetrios and Bartholomew and archbishops Michael, Iakovos, Spyridon and Demetrios.

In 1977, she became a founder of the Eastern Federation of Greek Orthodox Church Musicians. She also organized and directed a Church Music Institute for Organ held at the cathedral for three successive years.

She was recipient of the Saint Romanos Medallion “for distinguished service at the local, diocesan and national level” and also received the 1998 Archdiocesan Cross.

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Annunciation parish held a testimonial luncheon in her honor in 1996. She received numerous letters of congratulation, and Baltimore city declared the occasion “Georgia Tangires Day.”

She retired from the cathedral in 2010.

Mrs. Tangires was a member of the Baltimore Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, the National Association of Teachers of Singing and the Choristers Guild.

She also accompanied the Maryland State Chorus.

She enjoyed bird watching and observing animal life. She spent time at Ocean City and Bethany Beach, Del., and at Black Water Falls, W.Va.

Mrs. Tangires 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.