Holy Week and Easter Excerpts
Recorded at Ascension Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Oakland, CA
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Perecles P. Phillips - Church Musician, Producer, Director, Journalist, Visionary
Born in Oklahoma, Perecles “Perry” Phillips moved to Oakland with his parents when he was 11 years old, attended local schools, and graduated from Oakland High School. During World War II, he was a member of the 2671st Special Reconnaissance Battalion of the Office of Strategic Services. Known as the “Greek Battalion”, the outfit saw action in German-occupied Greece and Yugoslavia. In 1962, Perry began writing his column, “Night Sounds”, for the Oakland Tribune, which was widely read for 29 years. This column covered entertainment and restaurants for the SF Bay Area, Reno, Tahoe and Las Vegas.
Perry was an effective Oakland civic booster as well. He served on the board of the Oakland Symphony and was president of the Oakland Opera, among others.
Perry was also a true son of the Church, having served as an acolyte in both the Church of the Holy Trinity in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the historic Church of the Dormition in Oakland, California. He apprenticed with Cantors John Karas and Athansios Alambakos (1935-1943) learning all of the services and assisting for special occasions. This musical experience led Perry to a lifelong dedicated service to Orthodox Church music. As a choir director and as one who encouraged young church musicians, Perry influenced the creative musical spirit in the American Church, particularly Dr. Ted Bogdanos, Dr. Frank Desby, Dr. Tikey Zes, and Steve Cardiasmenos.
He served as choir director for the Holy Trinity Church in San Francisco, and the Ascension Liturgical Choir in Oakland, as well as president of the Oakland choir. To foster young choir voices, Perry organized the St. Romanos Children’s Choir in the mid-70s. Having done this, he directed and produced a two-record album in 1979 entitled “Excerpts from Holy Week and Easter” which was performed by the Ascension Liturgical Choir, the Children’s Choir, soloists and church organist Anna Marakas Counelis. In addition, he inaugurated the orchestral and choral Christmas programs which he directed. These programs included the participation of the Prometheus Symphony of Oakland, together with musicians from the Bay Area Greek communities.
Perry was one who was instrumental in the development of the Choir Federation movement in the West. He was President of the Federation of Greek Orthodox Church Choirs of the Western States from 1951-1954, at which time he was made honorary Federation President for Life. In 1972, Perry spearheaded the reorganization of the present San Francisco Greek Orthodox Diocese Choir Federation. For the Archdiocese, Perry had been the organizer and initial tour director for the Archdiocese Choir, which toured Greece in 1974. He produced three concerts, a recording, and raised funds for that venture as well. To bring Greek Orthodox Church music and Byzantine chant to a wider American audience, Perry founded and directed the Bay Area Byzantine Chorale (1955-1963), which performed annual concerts in the Bay Area, and toured in Nevada and the Northwest.
In addition to choir work, Perry was one from the group who organized the original Orthodox Youth Association, which was the forerunner of GOYA. He was also the progenitor of the Folk Dance Festivals, along with well-known folklorist Athan Karras of Los Angeles. In 1975, Perry received the St. Paul Medal, and in 1982 was given the title of Archon, Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle by the Church.
In 1986, he was awarded life membership into the National Forum of Greek Orthodox Church Musicians (NFGOCM). In 1994, Phillips posthumously received "The Saint Romanos the Melodist Medallion." NFGOCM awards the medallion to individuals who have made exemplary national contributions to church music in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
At the age of 67, Perry suffered a stroke and died on May 5, 1991. He is survived by his wife Marjorie, daughters Frosene, Elena, Joanna, Venetia, son Peter, granddaughters Alexis and Giuliana, and three great grandchildren.
May his memory be eternal.