London Tekeyan Celebration of 145th Anniversary of the Great Komitas


2_makruhi tahmazian, caroline cox,  vartan ouzounian,sipan hakobyan, elizabeth simolac

By Hasmik Harutunyan Seymour and Seda Khachaturyan

LONDON — St. Yegishe Armenian Church in London vibrated with a memorable classical concert on October 18, 2014. The Tekeyan Trust of London (TTL), a registered charity since 1979, organized an autumnal concert of Armenian music with the participation of the Komitas Choir, the first Armenian choir in the United Kingdom (UK), to celebrate the 145th birth anniversary of the great composer Komitas.

The TTL, the backbone of the London TCA and the Tekeyan Centre Fund (Armenia), has always been dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the national identity and to furthering links between Armenia and the Diaspora through various cultural, educational, community life activities.

The idea of creating the Komitas Choir, the brainchild of TTL Honorary Secretary Vartan Ouzounian and tenor Sipan Hakobyan, was enthusiastically supported by the Trust. Thus, in November 2013, the Komitas Choir was formed under the chairmanship of Ouzounian and the baton of the young promising conductor Hagopyan. Currently the choir consists of more than 30 singers. For an entire year, Artistic Director of the Komitas Choir Hagopyan and wonderful Concert Master Ella Babayan, have been working relentlessly and passionately to prepare the singers for their major public recital on October 18.

Present at the great event were representatives of all organizations of the British-Armenian community, Baroness Caroline Cox of the House of Lords, other civic and religious dignitaries, musicians, critics and music-lovers.

The concert started with Ouzounian’s welcoming speech and a brief review of the 39-year activity of the Tekeyan Trust. The chairman also detailed the idea and the goal of the Komitas Choir.

At the concert apart from the Komitas Choir performance, the audience heard recitals by talented young Armenian artists in the UK: violinist Ani Batikian, international award-winning soprano Tereza Gevorgyan, twenty-year-old pianist and composer Kristina Arakelyan and soprano Arpineh Kassabian, who introduced several masterpieces of Komitas Vardapet. Komitas not only re-invented the tradition of Armenian folk music by getting rid of foreign influences, but without him, many of those 4000 ancient folk songs would have vanished forever.

The first to perform was the multi-talented Arakelyan, a third-year scholar of Royal Academy of Music in London. Arakelyan performed two Dances for Piano by Komitas with youthful vigor and confidence. In the first half of the concert, she also accompanied soloists with huge professionalism.

In the first part of the program Hagopyan sang two well-known songs by Komitas with his warm, velvety tenor, accompanied by Arakelyan on the piano. As a child Hagopyan attended the Tchaikovsky Music School in Yerevan for gifted young musicians and later graduated from Yerevan State Conservatory with Master Degree. He continues his vocal training in London where he takes master classes with Professor Philip Dogan at the Royal Academy of Music (RAM) in London. Hagopyan has performed on Armenian and British stages throughout the past four years, and from concert to concert, his natural talent is growing stronger and more compelling.

Violinist Batikian is an accomplished soloist, and graduate from RAM with the top prize for violin. For this evening, she had selected two masterpieces of Komitas, which she interpreted with verve, precision and admirable intonation. The opening low notes from the famous Krounk sounded mesmerizing, followed by an effortless shift to higher octaves, performed flawlessly, so that she set a high standard for the rest of this very challenging violin piece. The young violinist showed a restrained lyricism throughout the second piece, Kele Tsoler.

Another revelation of the evening was the young soprano Gevorgyan, who performed two celebrated songs by Komitas, Apricot Tree and Swallow. One of the most memorable recitals of the evening was her version of Groong by Komitas, which was emotional, sensual and rich in musical texture and nuance.

One of my favourite recitals of the evening was the duet called “Habrban” interpreted by Hagopyan and Gevorgyan, accompanied by Batikian on violin and Arakelyan on piano. Cheeky, joyful and youthful, this piece was quite suitable for the young artists and there was a lot of creative chemistry among those four musicians who had joined together in this uplifting and positive piece. It made one’s heart thump with pride.

In the second part of the concert the Komitas Choir performed nine songs; three of them by Komitas and the rest, popular and folk songs.

At the end of the evening an emotional speech was given by Very Rev. Aren Shahinian, who welcomed the audience to St. Yegishe Church, and used a metaphor from the song Krounk to symbolize the Armenian nation’s survival. He praised the brilliant initiative to form the first Armenian choir in the UK. Ara Margarian from the Armenian Embassy in London congratulated the Komitas Choir and wished it much future success.

In his closing speech, Ouzounian thanked all the members of the choir for their dedication and contribution to Armenian culture and music and presented them with certificates of appreciation. He expressed his gratitude to benefactors for supporting the Komitas Choir, and thanked dignitaries and the audience for their attendance.