BY RITA HINTLIAN
PASADENA—Veteran’s Day 2012 will be forever imprinted in the minds of almost 3,000 people who attended the HyeAID benefit concert to help the Armenian community in Syria at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, California.
The artists from local and as far away as Armenia, England and France literally rocked the house and the audience, young and old, responded. They were moved with the songs of sorrow, longing and anguish, and laughed at the comedic remarks of the artists, who switched to upbeat songs to cheer up the audience.
The variety program started with the classics performed by the Hi-Am Quartet. Throughout the program, scenes of destruction of homes, schools, stores, homes for the elderly, group home for children, and churches, including the Armenian Genocide memorial church complex in Der Zor, were shared with the audience.
Syrian Armenian Relief Fund (SARF) Executive Committee Chairperson, Zaven Khanjian, spoke on behalf of the 10 organizations that make up SARF. Western Prelate Arch. Moushegh Mardirossian, Diocese former Primate Arch. Vache Hovsepian, Rev. Fr. Krikor Chahinian, and Rev. Jospeh Matossian represented their churches, also present was the Prelate of Damascus, Bishop Armash Nalbandian. In addition, Counsel General of the Republic of Armenia, Grigor Hovhannissian, Avedik Izmirlian of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Central Committee, Vazken Khodanian of the Social Democrat Hunchakian Party, Armenian Relief Society Central Executive Chairperson Vicky Marashlian and member Ani Keshishian, and Western U.S.A. Regional Executive Lena Bozoyan, and Armenian General Benevolent Union representative Tomig Alexanian. Also present was Heritage Party Chairperson Raffi Hovhannisian.
The concert was organized in association with Artists for Kids. Khanjian’s upbeat message reaffirmed that the Syrian Armenian community will prevail, it will resurrect and it will resume it’s role as the overflowing mother of all Diaspora Communities. Showing very old photo of very young scouts marching on the sports field, his poetic message was that the young scouts will return. He invited three students, representing their schools, which collected donations as Grand Sponsors of the event, along with Karoun Dairies, represented by Antranig Baghdassarian.
Aleeque Marselian from Vahan and Anoush Chamlian Armenian School, Tamar Gharibian from Rose and Alex Pilibos Armenian School, and Eddie Hovhannesian from Holy Martyrs Ferrahian High School, also representing Cabayan Elementery School, handed the checks from their respective schools. Armineh Khatchatourian, Chamlian Board Chair; Rita Kaprielian, Vice Principal of Chamlian; Dr. Alina Dorian, Principal of Pilibos; and John Kossakian, Principal of Ferrahian were present, along with many students, faculty members and administrators, collectively showing that the youth have taken the lead in lending a hand to their less fortunate compatriots in Syria. Khanjian read the thank you letter sent by Arch. Shahan Sarkissian, Prelate of Aleppo, on behalf of the three denominations and the community. It is hoped that $250,000, raised from this concert and other fundraising events, will be forwarded in the near future.
The ethno-rock group, Element Band, continued the program with soloist Soseh Keshishyan. Element Band members also individually accompanied some of the vocalists, who followed them later during the program.
An 89-year old young soloist Souren Khavejian, who was originally from Syria, was accompanied on the accordion by Ara Dabandjian. The Dirty Diamond, an LA-Based band performed next, with Sam Babayan with the lead vocalist on the guitar. They were followed by Charming Liars, who flew from London. Their guitarist, Karnig Manoukian, expressed his excitement in sharing the stage with so many fantastic artists.
The youth were present once again, as Armen Movsisyan appeared, and then was joined by his Guitar Studio students. The VIZA band was next, a band for whom contributing what they can is a way of life. Lilit Pipoyan from Armenia sang and played very moving lyrics on the piano, then on the guitar.
Actor-director Vahe Berberian, explained that he had a chance to visit Syria four years ago, and felt their warmth, nationalistic and welcoming spirit. He urged everyone to assist the Syrian Armenians, since they are a part of us, and then introduced his idol, Arto Tuncboyaciyan. Tuncboyaciyan roared the audience with his comedic jests, remembered the martyr soldiers dying on the Artsakh border, urged people to act as human beings, not make bad things happen due to their greediness, and speak about problems, lest they fester forever. A group of young singers accompanies him and once again, the youth outnumbered the adults.
TV personality and journalist Arshalouys Tarpinian applauded the high level of artistry during the program, praised the audience for supporting the benefit concert and quoted from Karekin Njdeh regarding the success of our endeavors with collective responsibility. She introduced composer Ruben Hakhverdyan. Hakhverdyan was eager to explain the truth about the Armenian spirit, flexible yet protective of its culture and values. He explained that we hyphenate our Armenian-ism, but the Syrian Armenians are just us, our people.
Producer-Director Carla Garabedian observed that we stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Syria, and introduced the father and son team, Khatchadoor and Serj Tankian, who performed next. Serj Tankian remarked that “all the artists that played tonight were incredible.”
The curtains closed after one more song with all the vocalists on the stage, a nostalgic song about longing and being home-sick, “Tercheyi Mdkov”.
Following the concert, Aram Alajajian, of the Artists for Kids, thanked all the participating artists, and remarked that this was “the greatest event we ever put together. It was really a crown.”
The crisis in Syria continues. Contributions can be mailed to Syrian Armenian Relief Fund, P.O. Box 1948, Glendale, CA 91209-1948 or by credit card at www.SyrianArmenianReliefFund.org.
The San Francisco community will hold a benefit concert on Sunday, November 18, 2012 at 5 pm, at the Khachaturian Armenian Community Center, Saroyan Hall, 825 Brotherhood Way, San Francisco, CA (the cost of admission is $25).
The following churches, charities and organizations came together to form the Syrian Armenian Relief Fund: Armenian Catholic Eparchy in North America; Armenian Evangelical Union of North America; Western Diocese of the Armenian Church; Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America; Armenian General Benevolent Union; Armenian Missionary Association of America; Armenian Relief Society of Western U.S.A.; Armenian Democratic Liberal Party; Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Western U.S.A.; and Social Democrat Hunchakian Party-Western U.S.A.