By Robert Dulgarian
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — The year 2015 was one of renewal, reflection and hope for Armenians all over the world. Since the official centenary of the Armenian Genocide saw the recognition of its martyrs as saints by the Armenian Apostolic Church, the advent of the year’s Christmas and Nativity season was bound to hold a special meaning for Armenians.
The annual Christmas Holiday Concert of Holy Trinity Armenian Church of Greater Boston by the Erevan Choral Society, held in the church sanctuary on December 13, and directed by the indefatigable Konstantin Petrossian, sought to pay tribute to both the solemnity and the joy that consequently marked an unusual holiday season.
As befits a year of renewal, this year’s concert featured both new voices and familiar voices in new roles. Almost traditionally, the concert has featured a world premier: the choral vocalise Aghotk (“Prayer”) by Martin Vardazaryan, a performance dedicated to two departed Erevan Choral Society benefactors, Gerald Ajemian and Garbis Barsoumian.
Perhaps most novel was the virtuoso performance by the a cappella quartet, The Bostonians, in which alto Roselin Osser, tenor Michael Calmès, and bass Philip Lima joined soprano Nouné Karapetian, a performer well-known to Armenian audiences. The quartet offered a lyrical and spirited rendition of the carol “Ding Dong Merrily on High” and of Armenian songs Cilicia and Noubar, Noubar, the last two dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.
All four singers’ mastery of the Armenian lyrics clearly impressed and delighted the audience.
Also new to Erevan Choral Society was accomplished operatic soprano Knarik Nerkararyan who impressed as soloist in Charles Gounod’s familiar Ave Maria, composed over Bach’s first prelude from The Well-Tempered Clavier, and in Petrossian’s own Diramayr, dedicated to the memory of Diramayr Sirvart Minassian, the mother of the Erevan Choral Society’s beloved founder, the Very Rev. Oshagan Minassian.
Also new to the performance was alto saxophonist Andrei Sobchenko’s fluid rendition of Mel Torme’s Christmas Song. Finally, longstanding Erevan Choral Society alto Jane Zanichkowsky reprised her solo in John Rutter’s arrangement of the carol How Great Our Joy.
The balance of the concert reflected the combined commemoration of the centenary and the season. The traditional candlelit processional O Come, All Ye Faithful opened the concert. From the Armenian tradition, choir and orchestra reprised Levon Chaushyan’s Srpazan Hayasdan, originally premiered for the Genocide Centenary, as well as settings of Ov Zarmanalee, Aysor Tzaynun Hayragan and the Hymn of the Kiss of Peace, all rescored by Petrossian; Handel’s “Hallelujah” from Messiah rounded out the musical performance.
Fr. Vasken Kouzouian, pastor of Holy Trinity Church, welcomed two dignitaries to close out the program. Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, the ambassador of the Republic of Armenia to the United Nations, spoke movingly and fluently about the seminal role of Armenia and Armenians in framing and pursuing issues of genocide, human rights and accountability among all peoples.
Archbishop Nourhan Manougian, Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem, brought the blessings of Bethlehem and the greetings of the Armenian community of the Holy Land with him. He delivered closing remarks, stressing the unity of the Armenian people, church and culture in overcoming the terrible events of a hundred years ago and carrying on a spiritual and cultural tradition which, it is to be hoped, will sustain us for the next century and beyond.