World-renowned organist Berj Zamkochian died on Monday–after a brief illness. A native Bostonian–Dr. Zamkochian was a graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music–and was a member of the organ faculty during his graduate study.
At the age of 24–he performed his debut recital in Boston’s Symphony Hall–and went on to perform throughout the world with major orchestras. He represented the Organists of the United States at the Third World Congress of Sacred Music in Paris–and in 1965–Zamkochian became the first American organist to tour the Soviet Union. With the World Symphony Orchestra–he played concerts for the openings of the Kennedy Center–Washington–DC–the Lincoln Center in New York–and Disney World in Orlando–Florida.
In 1957–the late Charles Munch appointed him organist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and–in that same year–Arthur Fiedler appointed him organist of the Boston Pops Orchestra. His recordings with the BSO and POPS won him international acclaim–including the Saint-Saens Organ Symphony and the Poulenc Organ Concerto. A re-release by RCA of both works on a single CD was hailed by the New York Times as "one of the 50 most important recordings of all time." It remains a best seller today. Zamkochian was awarded the Grand Prix du Disque for his recording of the Reubke Sonata on the 94th Psalm.
Zamkochian appeared as an organ soloist with many symphony orchestras throughout the world including Tokyo–Osaka–Moscow–Yerevan–Bamberg–Koln–Vienna–New York–Washington–DC–Detroit–Indianapolis–and Phoenix. He also played dedicatory recitals of the great organs in cathedrals throughout the world. In 1983–before an audience of 40,0000–he dedicated the largest organ in the world in the Temple of Shinji Schumei Kai in Shiga–Japan where he returned every year to perform.
Zamkochian played command performances for six US presidents–the Royal Family of England–and the Imperial Family of Japan. During the first papal visit of His Holiness John Paul II to the US–he served as papal organist. Distinctive honors were bestowed upon him by Pope Paul VI–the late Cardinal Aghajanian–His Holiness Catholicos Vasken I–the Armenian Academy of Arts and Sciences–the Armenian Mekhitarist of Venice–and the President of Armenia.
In December 2003–he performed in Milan–Munich–and in Rome–where he played for His Holiness Pope John Paul II–and at the Monastery of San Lazzaro Degli Armeni in Venice–where Zamkochian often stayed. In addition to his incomparable talent–Berj Zamkochian will be lovingly remembered by his students for his inspiration and devotion–by his many friends for his generosity–keen intellect–and sense of humor–and by congregations and audiences throughout the world where Zamkochian donated and dedicated organs through the Gomidas Organ Fund he established in 1970.
The wake will be on Friday February 27–5:00 to 8:00 PM–at the Mount Auburn Memorial Chapel of the Giragosian Funeral Home–576 Mt. Auburn St. Watertown–MA (617)-924-0606. A Mass of Christian Burial will be said on Saturday morning February 28 at 11:00 AM at the Holy Cross Armenian Catholic Church–200 Lexington Street–Belmont MA–preceded by a 1/2 hour musical prelude. Interment will be at the Canton Corner Cemetery in Canton–MA.
Zamkochian had requested that donations in his memory be made to the Gomidas Organ Fund–c/o Charles W. Jack–16 Robinhood Road–Natick–MA 01760–or to the Congregazione Armena Machitarista of Venice–Italy – c/o Attorney Joseph S. Carnabuci–21 Torrey Street–Brockton–MA 02301.