Konstantin Petrossian Honored in Providence

By Florence Avakian

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — It was a festive occasion for those celebrating the centennial of the Sts. Sahag and Mesrob Church with a gala concert on Friday, June 13. And as it turned out, the day held a special surprise for the concert conductor, Konstantin Petrossian.

With more than 600 in attendance at the St. Mary and St. Mena Coptic Orthodox Cathedral, Diocesan Primate Archbishop Khajag Barsamian rose to read the encyclical from the Catholicos of all Armenians, His Holiness Karekin II, which bestowed Maestro Petrossian with the “Sts. Sahag and Mesrob Medal” — one of the lofty honors of the Armenian Church, given to recognize distinguished achievement in the arts and culture.

In his remarks to the large crowd, the Primate congratulated Maestro Konstantin on receiving “this well-deserved honor from our Mother See.”

“Maestro is a true example of how our cultural identity can flourish and expand on the shores of this great country of America,” Archbishop Barsamian said.

In a subsequent phone conversation, Petrossian admitted: “It was a great surprise. I knew nothing about it. I was preparing to conduct the last musical selection which was scheduled to follow the Primate’s benediction. Then all of a sudden, this announcement came.”

The three-day centennial celebration had begun with the Friday concert, continued with a banquet on Saturday, June 14, and culminated on Sunday, June 15 with the Divine Liturgy and a khatchkar-blessing ceremony, celebrated by Primate.

The centennial celebration had been initiated by the church pastor, the Rev. Shnork Souin, who had also traveled to Armenia to bring back the specially-ordered khatchkar. Souin had also secretly requested that the Primate honor Petrossian with this award.

“I felt so emotional,” related Petrossian. “And to have been honored by the Vehapar, and Archbishop Khajag whom I respect so much, makes me very proud. This was the most important honor I have ever received.”

The concert, titled “A Century of Light, Hope and Faith,” was attended by a number of dignitaries, including nine clerics from the Rhode Island Orthodox Clergy Fellowship, as well as clergy from regional Armenian churches. Also attending were representatives of the Rhode Island state government.

The musical performance — involving 26 instrumentalists and the 50-voice Armenian Chorale of Rhode Island — featured Armenian spiritual, folk, classical, and national music by Gomidas, Yegmalian, Chaushian, Bedelian, Balyan, Avedisian, and Konstantin Petrossian himself. It began with the majestic Hrashapar, Oorakh Ler, and Etchmiadzin, and ended with Babajanian’s powerful Asg Parabantz and Hovannesian’s Erevan Erebounie.

“The concert was a bouquet of sacred, folk, and patriotic pieces,” noted the honoree. “We wanted to demonstrate the rich heritage of our nation by this performance which was set to the highest standards. It is my belief that the nation gains its strength from the preservation and enrichment of its cultural and sacred heritage.”

At the conclusion of the celebratory occasion, Souin paid tribute to Petrossian, stating: “We are so proud that this prestigious award by His Holiness could be delivered by our Primate on the glorious occasion of this magnificent concert in honor of our church centennial. Maestro’s talents and services to this church shall forever be memorialized with this award.”

Petrossian is an acclaimed Armenian composer who has created symphonic, choral, chamber, instrumental, and vocal compositions, as well as soundtracks and theatrical selections. His works have been performed, recorded and published worldwide. He is a member of the Armenian Union of Composers and Musicologists; the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP); the American Music Center and the Armenian Musical Assembly.

He has served as Cultural and Music Director of Sts. Sahag and Mesrob Church in Providence, and is artistic director and conductor of the Armenian Chorale of Rhode Island. A co-founder of the Armenian Chorale of Greater Worcester, Mass., he has been Music Director and Conductor of the Erevan Choral Society since 2009.

Among the venues he has performed in are New York’s Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. At the United Nations he gave an Armenian concert on the historic occasion of the Republic of Armenia becoming a member of that international organization.

In May of 2013, Maestro Petrossian was honored with the Armenian Republic’s highest cultural award, the “Movses Khorenatsi Medal,” bestowed by President Serge Sargisian.