Musical Legacy of Konstantin Petrossian
By Alin K. Gregorian
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Music has been Konstantin Petrossian’s life, from Yerevan to Providence and all points in between, leaving his mark on musicians and audiences.
Petrossian is a composer of symphonic, choral, chamber, instrumental, and vocal music, sound tracks, and theater music. His works have performed, recorded and have been published worldwide.
He is a member of the Armenian Union of Composers, American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), the American Music Center, and the Armenian Musical Assembly.
Petrossian has given numerous performances in many countries, In addition, he has presented his own music in various cities of the United States, and has performed at such prestigious venues as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center in New York.
He was born in a musical family in Armenia. His father, Hrant Petrosyan, was also a musician, playing the trumpet.
Now, after many decades of promoting music, conducting and composing, he will participate in the popular television program in Armenia called “Yerk Yerkotz,” which will air on H-1 Armenian state TV on October 2, in honor of his 70th birthday. Several popular Armenian performers will sing music by him, a symphonic orchestra will perform works by him and he will also be interviewed.
Petrossian moved to the US in the 1990s. He goes back regularly, though his immediate family is here. His daughter lives in Chicago and he and his wife live in Providence, but his sister, nieces, nephews and old friends are all back in Armenia.
“I am a Yerevantsi,” he said.
In 2013 he received the Movses Khorenatsi Medal, the country’s highest cultural award, by President Serzh Sargsyan. The following year, he received the Sts. Sahag and Mesrob Medal, the highest honor of the Armenian Apostolic Church, accompanied by an encyclical from Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, for his excellence in service to the Church and the Armenian culture.
He serves as the Cultural and Music Director of Sts. Sahag and Mesrob Armenian Church in Providence, and has also been the Artistic Director and Conductor of the Armenian Chorale of Rhode Island.
It is not just Rhode Island that sees the benefits of his musical talents; over in the neighboring state, Massachusetts, he has headed the Greater Worcester Armenian Chorale since 2000.
He has been the Music Director and Conductor of the Erevan Choral Society and Orchestra since 2009, after the death of the group’s founder, the Very Rev. Oshagan Minassian.
“I was offered the position. It was a great honor, to keep alive his traditions so that the group continues with the same spirit,” Petrossian said.
He, also, is co-chairman of the foreign committee of the Composers Union of Armenia.
Petrossian graduated from the Romanos Melikian College and later the Komitas State Conservatory of Yerevan, where he studied under Edward Baghdasaryan and was classmates with fellow composers Tigran Mansuryan, Robert Amirkhanyan and Levon Chaushian. The future giants were students of Grigor Yeghiazarian.
As Petrossian recalled in a recent interview, he was in his first year at the conservatory, when he was offered the post of conducting the Yerevan Moscow Cinema and Theater Band (Moskva Kino Tatron). He accepted and did it for five years.
“They were very popular,” he recalled.
He next worked with the Armenian Popular Composers’ Union. He sought “goosans,” or folk singers from the provinces and ask them to sing their local folk songs. He would then take the song back so that musicians could transcribe them.
“For three years I went all over Armenia in search of folk music,” he said. “There is not one corner of Armenia I have not seen.”
Next, he was named the artistic director of the Radio and TV Popular Symphonic Band and later, at the invitation of composer Edward Mirzoyan, was appointed to a position with the Composers’ Union in which he promoted Armenian composers internationally.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the concert he conducted at the United Nations, in honor of Armenia becoming independent.
“Armenia was not a member of the UN yet. They were so thrilled with it,” he said.
In the early 1990s, he was vice president of the Peace Fund, with Mirzoyan as president. “We helped our artists. Archbishop Khajag Barsamian [of the Diocese of Armenian Church of America, Eastern] and Sahan [Arzruni, pianist], played a very big part. We were able to help Armenian composers.”
Petrossian made his first visit to the US in 1990, when he met the Armenian Arts Alliance.
Later, they organized an Armenian Jazz Festival, in 1995, during which time, he met with Minassian, the late choirmaster of the Holy Trinity Armenian Church in Cambridge.
“He had done one of my songs, Hayastan, and he said they loved it,” Petrossian recalled.
According to Mirzoyan, “Konstantin Petrossian belongs to the generation of Armenian composers whose bright personalities and mastery epitomize contemporary Armenian music. The ‘Hayrenee Ghoghanjner’ (Chimes of the Homeland) choral cycle of exquisite arrangements of Armenian songs that combine the traditional style created by greater Armenian composer Komitas and the contemporary creative approach. While the Chimes of the Homeland cycle in itself provides a worthy and remarkable contribution to the choral art.”
“My goal is to promote works by Armenian composers in the US,” he said.
Petrossian is still a prolific composer. A CD of his works has been released in Armenia.