BY NAIRUHI PETROSYAN
Once again, more than 300 people gathered under the arches of the magnificent St Cuthbert’s church, united by high arts and wonderful music – simple and sophisticated in its modulations, cordial and incredible in its exceptional resonance, ethnic and at the same time as universal as the conceptions of love, kindness, nature, and beauty.
Here is the key to immortality: Being such an individual and creator, such a patriot of extreme devotion to world culture, in general and your nation in particular, as to make the Russian, Maltese, Bulgarian, British, Greek, Georgian, Cypriot and, of course, Armenian people congregate in one of the greatest cities in the world, in London, to celebrate your birthday after decades of your physical absence. The Heavenly music sounded, as Lord Gordon Byron put it, in the heavenly language, under the arches of the magnificent British spiritual temple, against the background of majestic icons.
Musicians and spectators from all over the world had congregated along with local Armenians to celebrate the 150th anniversary and pay their respect and tribute to Komitas: a magnificent event masterminded, organized and directed by Conductor Sipan Olah. The event was unprecedented, not only because of the international audience interested in Armenian classical music, but also owing to the fact that most of the musicians had arrived in London from different corners of the world. Moreover, all the countries involved were represented by embassy officials. There were a number of greeting addresses, particularly by Baroness Caroline Cox, Mayor of Kensington Will Paskall, Deputy Minister of Science, Culture, Education, and Sport of the Republic of Armenia, Narine Khachaturyan, and high representative of the Anglican Clergy, Paul Bagot.
The event was presented by well-known actress, TV and radio reporter Vasoula Christodoulou and poet, linguist Karen Yeghikyan, who, throughout the concert, spread light on interesting particulars of Komitas’ legacy, his life full of enigmatic episodes, as well as quotations from world renowned masters regarding his genius. The whole event was absorbed with his enchanting music, which has made him immortal, and, as poet Paruyr Sevak wrote, “Is forever nested in our souls.”
Performing in the string quartet were: Mariam Sargsyan – violin, U.K.-Armenia; Lyudmila Lugovskaya –violin, Russia-UK; Paul Livingston – viola, U.K.; Sofiko Tvauri – cello, Georgia-U.K. Each and every piece is unique in its melodic moods, colour pallets and rhythmic images: Edchmiadzin Dance, Shogher Djan, Chinar es (She‘s Slender like a plane tree), Kakavik (Song of the little Partridge).
The audience enjoyed an extremely lyrical, vibrant, a bit melancholy, utterly ethereal piano piece titled, “Shushiki,” by Evgenia Terentieva, piano, Russia–U.K.
This spirit dwells in Mother Nature, on the mountain slopes covered with fragrant flowers, absorbed by the soothing river sounds, loving and dedicating songs to the beloved. “Es arun,” “Yes saren kugayi,” “Zinch u zinch,” were performed by Katerina Mina, soprano, Cyprus–U.K.
“Hayastan, the Garden of Eden,” was performed by the mastermind, organizer, and director of the event, tenor Sipan Olah.
‘‘The Crane,” a bird, which has traditionally been expected to bring news about the homeland to the tormented Armenian exiles, was performed by Mariam Sargsyan, violin, U.K.-Armenia.
Komitas’ heritage includes a number of love-songs, expressing the feelings of young men and women encapsulating their endearing perceptions of true beauty. “Qele-qele,” “Akh, Maral jan,” “Ervum em,” were performed by Helen Rotchell, mezzo-soprano, U.K.
The “Apricot tree”, embodied by an Armenian girl, was performed by Hayarpi Yeghikyan, soprano, U.K.-Armenia.
Another fascinating dialogue between man and nature, “Alagyaz,” “Elemi tree” was performed by Angelo Muskat, tenor, Malta.
This little bird, the swallow, soaring high into the sky, communicates with an individual, suffering from nostalgia, listens to the sounds of his tormented soul and tries to take his message to his beloved in the homeland. This is a beautiful portrayal with impressive melodic vibrations, symbolising freedom and independence. “The Swallow” was performed by Andriana Yordanova, soprano, Bulgaria-Malta.
Being extremely varied, the program included a love-song depicting a very moving conversation from a couple, deeply in love. “Habrban” was performed by Sipan Olah, tenor, Hayarpi Yeghikyan, soprano, Mariam Sargsyan, violin, Evgenia Terentieva, piano.
The audience enjoyed choir works of the master in the second part of the concert, some of which were performed by an ensemble of professional singers, and others by the Klingen choir under the baton of conductor Sipan Olah. The ensemble presented spiritual songs “Lord’s prayer,” “Sourb, sourb,” and “Hayrapetakan anthem,” followed by “Little girl,” “Aravot lusaber,” “Yar jan, ari,” and “Garun a.” The Klingen Choir started with “Andzrevn yekav,” presented a few more jewels from Komitas’ inexhaustible depository, and finished the concert by “Gutanerg – Song of the ploughman,” with the participation of all the invited musicians.
Following a well-established tradition, Lebanese Armenian painter Leonie Pilart presented her exhibition of canvases, dedicated specially to Komitas. Designer Alice Martirossian joined the exhibition with her hand-made dolls wearing national Armenian costumes of different historical periods and geographical locations.
I would like to thank all those people, owing to whose efforts this event came true, all the people who, being non-Armenian, admire Komitas’ music, that enrich the curricula of their educational institutions with his creations, and include his songs in their solo concerts. Yes, I mean well-known Bulgarian-Maltese soprano, Dr Andriana Yordanova, who is undoubtedly one of the best performers of Komitas’ “Swallow” in the whole world. Thanks to all those who enjoyed the concert with tearful eyes, and whose souls trembled with the wonderful melodies. Special thanks to talented director Sipan Olah, who managed to organize such an unprecedented event putting in all his time and efforts.