Very Rev. Minassian Dies


Was Passionate Supporter of Music

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — The Very Rev. Fr. Oshagan Minassian of Watertown died on July 26 after a long illness. He was the music director of Holy Trinity Armenian Church of Greater Boston, and was the founder of the Erevan Choral Society.

During the past half century, Minassian had served in many capacities, as a dedicated clergyman and musician of the Armenian Apostolic Church, as director of the Holy Trinity Armenian Church Choir in Cambridge, since 1965 and as founder, music director and conductor of the Erevan Choral Society. Many hundreds of people benefited from his teachings, direction and love for Armenian music and its historical importance to the Armenian people.

Tsolag Minassian was born on August 22, 1930 in Aleppo, Syria, to Karnig and Sirvart Minassian. He completed his elementary and secondary education at the Haygazian School in Aleppo. In 1944, he entered the Armenian Theological Seminary in Antelias, Lebanon. While at Antelias Seminary, he studied music with composer Hampartzoum Berberian. He later transferred to the Armenian Patriarchate in Jerusalem in 1950, where he was ordained a celibate priest and was given the name Oshagan, in 1951. He taught liturgical music and history at the seminary from 1951 to 1953, whereupon he was sent to the United States upon the invitation of Archbishop Tiran Nersoyan, then Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church.

Upon his arrival, Minassian was assigned as pastor of the Holy Cross Armenian Church in Lawrence. On July 17, 1955, at the age of 25, he terminated his active pastorate at the Holy Cross Church because of a diving accident at Salisbury Beach, that resulted in a spinal chord injury.

Music had always been his passion. As a child, he longed to play the violin, but his parents were too poor to buy him one. One day while on an outing with his parents in a park, he happened to find a gold bracelet. He excitedly showed it to his mother and said, “Sell it and buy me a violin.” He realized that that action was wrong and started to search the park, where he came across a woman loudly scolding a young girl and asking where she had lost her bracelet. He presented the mother with the bracelet, which prompted her to slap him across the face and call him a thief. Although he was too young to understand the mother’s reaction, he knew that he had done the right thing. When he returned to his mother, she thanked him for what he had done and promised to buy him a violin one day.

During his recovery, following his accident, he asked why. But then he said, “Enough is enough.” In particular, he recalls his mother’s words in the hospital emergency room immediately after his accident as the doctors were debating the pros and cons of surgery: “I have given birth to my son and it is my sacred duty to take care of him the rest of my life. And foremost, my lips are so close to the ears of God, I will always pray for my son’s recovery.”

In the early 1960s, Minassian enrolled at Boston University and earned his master’s degree in religious education in 1962, a doctorate in theology in 1974, and his master’s degree in sacred music in 1982. He studied conducting under the renowned conductor of the Masterworks Chorale, Dr. Allen C. Lannom.

For the past 42 years, the Armenian community in New England was enriched by the grand vision and dedication of this extraordinary clergyman, teacher and musician. His ability to generate a choral group’s energy to focus intently on the music and its message has brought him great praise from the religious, secular and music communities at large. Under his tutelage, members of the Erevan Choral Society experienced an unparalleled opportunity to learn and explore Armenian music.

Minassian published several booklets on the Armenian Church, as well as several Armenian musical biographies, among them: A Brief History of the Armenian Church; This I Believe; Epiphany and Christmas in the Armenian Churchand Rouben Gregorian. He presented papers and served as panelist on Armenian music at Boston University, University of Massachusetts at Lowell, Brown University, Tufts University and St. Nersess Armenian Seminary. He has also conducted a series of seminars and choral workshops.

Though a serious musician and teacher, he had a wide reputation for his anecdotes, stories and jokes of both a serious and light-hearted nature. He had an uncanny ability to seize an opportune moment for comic relief.

He leaves his sister, Alice Palandjian and her husband Haroutune, as well as a brother, Zaven Minassian and his wife, Rachel. He also leaves many cousins, including Nancy Moscofian, as well as many nieces and nephews.

Funeral services were on Thursday, July 31 at Holy Trinity Armenian Church. In addition, Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), Archbishop Yeghishe Gizirian and Rev. Karekin Kasparian officiated at the consecration of his body during the funeral. Interment followed in Ridge Lawn Cemetery in Watertown.

Memorial gifts can be made to Holy Trinity Armenian Church.

Arrangements were made by the Aram Bedrosian Funeral Home.