LONDON—An historic charity event in support of Armenian and British charities took place at the Windsor Castle on 10 February hosted by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall. Project initiator and main benefactor Armen Sarkissian, former Prime Minister of Armenia and President of Eurasia House International, welcomed more than 200 guests from around the world with the Royal couple.
“I think I can say with some certainty that it is the first time in Windsor Castle’s nearly one thousand year history that there has been an Anglo-Armenian celebration,” said the Prince of Wales in his remarks.
“Yerevan-My-Love” is a heritage-led regeneration project dedicated to preserving architecturally significant buildings in Yerevan and putting them to use to improve the life experience of disabled children, young people and disadvantaged families.
“The projects that we are supporting today combine both elements of our rich cultural heritage: the physical restoration of architecturally significant buildings and the centrality of human community, especially children,” explained Armen Sarkissian, former Prime Minister of Armenia and initiator of the fundraising, who has been working with HRH The Prince of Wales closely and his charities.
The fundraising will support the reconstruction of four buildings: two of them in Yerevan’s Kond district and two in the centre. Once completed and fully furnished with facilities and equipment, one of the Kond buildings will be used to house a nursery for deaf and mute children from deprived families and the other will serve as a centre for single mothers with children. The other two buildings in the centre will become a music school for national instruments for deprived children and youth. The school will be run by world famous master duduk player Djivan Gasparyan, who was an orphan himself and grew up under the care and tutelage of musicians and artists of his time.
Members of the royal family, dignitaries, world renowned political, cultural and civic leaders, and senior executives of global corporation, including Areva, HSBC, Barclay’s Bank, Merrill Lynch, Elettronica, attended this unique charity event. A high level delegation from Armenia was headed by President Serge Sargsyan and His Holiness Catholicos Garegin II of All Armenians, the Mayor of Yerevan and Armenia’s Foreign Minister.
Master duduk player Djivan Gasparyan and his grandson Djivan Jr. played the opening piece of the concert with the Philharmonia Orchestra (Hans Zimmer’s opening theme from the film Gladiator), conducted by young artists Sergey Smbatyan (Yerevan) of the National Youth Orchestra of Armenia. Young violinist Mikhail Simonyan (New York), internationally recognized as one of the most celebrated talents of his generation, performed Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, first movement. Mezzo-soprano Dariga Nazarbayeva (Almaty) sang “O del mio dolce ardour” by Gluck and a selection of Armenian and Kazakh folk songs; followed by Aram Khachaturian’s Adagio from Spartacus & Phrygia.
The encore was Roever Korb’s “Highland Cathedral” played by the traditional Scottish bagpipe. This was a surprise piece requested by the Prince of Wales for Armen Sarkissian as a gesture of his appreciation. Turning to Armen and Nouneh Sarkissian, The Prince said: “I could not be more grateful to you for your wonderful vision, energy and generosity”.
The Prince of Wales underlined that “it is an occasion to strengthen further the strong ties between the United Kingdom and Armenia”. He expressed his admiration for Armenia as the oldest Christian nation in the world and “for its vast and unique architectural heritage”. He drew the attention of the guests to the fact that it is “a challenge to care for this ‘open air museum’, that is so much a part of the soul of the country, and to continue the tradition it has established. This is why I am so delighted to be giving this dinner to support the charity, ‘Yerevan My Love’, which will help with the redevelopment and revitalization of some of the oldest parts of the city in a way that preserves and continues traditional Armenian architecture and craftsmanship. Perhaps this approach will also provide an example and model to be adopted elsewhere in Armenia”.
In explaining the connection of the two charities, The Prince of Wales said “Both projects are examples of what I call heritage-led regeneration – using the rich architectural and craft heritage that both Armenia and the United Kingdom are so fortunate to have to inspire and lift the spirits and also to enhance communities by creating employment and prosperity.”
Some three years ago the Prince of Wales had managed to save a unique historic house and estate in South-West Scotland, together with its contents. “Dumfries House, as it is called,” said the Prince, “had retained, remarkably, much of the furniture commissioned for it from Thomas Chippendale and from the wonderful contemporary Edinburgh furniture makers William Mathie, Alexander Peter and Francis Brodie”. By forestalling the separate sales of the House and its contents to private bidders, His Royal Highness has assured that the House and its unique collection of furniture have been “preserved as an entity for the nation and future generations, not only so that people can visit and enjoy the art, craftsmanship and beauty, but also so that saving the House can act as a catalyst for the economic regeneration of the whole local area”.
In his address, Armen Sarkissian put the two charities and the event itself in a broader context. “The world is becoming smaller and increasingly more burdened with human conflicts, economic challenges and environmental concerns,” he said and asked: “What kind of future do we want for our children? In the end, I believe, this is the biggest question”. Along with a cleaner and sustainable environment, Dr Sarkissian underlined that the “preservation of cultural and spiritual heritage is vital for the survival of any nation and, indeed, for humanity.”