By Aram Arkun
ENGLEWOOD, N.J. — As the years go by, and Armenia continues to develop its statehood, the anniversary of the independence of the Armenian Republic becomes even more of a joyful occasion. The misery and desperate struggles of the initial years are gradually becoming ensconced in the pages of history, and Armenians can look forward to the future. It was in this festive vein that the Tekeyan Cultural Association (TCA) of Greater New York presented a cultural program on September 26 at the Dwight-Englewood High School. Nearly every seat in the auditorium was filled by the audience of approximately 500.
As pointed out by several speakers that afternoon, it was particularly symbolic that two cultural groups working to preserve traditional Armenian music and dance were present on the program, one from Armenia, and the other from the diaspora — New York in this case. Together they showed that Armenian folk art continues to live. What made the program particularly dynamic was that both groups were composed of vibrant and talented youngsters.
The Folk Instruments Ensemble of the Sayat Nova Music School provided both singers and musicians, who played everything from the kanun and oud to the duduk in a large ensemble, and performers of various classical instruments also were sent from the school. The director of the Sayat Nova School, Prof. Tigran Hekekyan, was present, along with Narine Zakaryan, who runs the department of traditional Armenian national instruments. The Sayat Nova School was an important institution in the Soviet period, and it seems that it has managed to preserve its high standards. The Sayat Nova School ensemble is touring various communities in the US with the support of the Ministry of the Diaspora of the Republic of Armenia. The Amaras Art Alliance, founded in 1990 to support cultural exchange between Armenia and the United states, is another supporter of this tour.
Anoosh Barclay, lyric coloratura soprano, opened the program with the national anthems of the United States of America and the Republic of Armenia. Pianist Davit Hovhannisyan, violinist Elizabeth Arakelyan and cellist Haik Sukiasyan, all teenagers from Armenia, performed pieces from Khachaturian, Babajanian, and Gomidas, while soloists Madlena Galstian, Van Muratyan, and Tigran Galstyan, again youngsters from Armenia, sang various folksongs in the second part of the program. All the performers from Armenia were obviously professionally trained and talented. Despite all the difficulties of the post-independence period, it was heartening that at least some of the cultural institutions from the Soviet period appeared to still be functioning well.
The Yeraz Dance Ensemble of New York, directed by Karnig Nercessian, was established at St. Sarkis Armenian Church in Queens in 1999. Its dancers performed throughout the two parts of the program, adding motion and grace to the stirring music presented by the artists from Armenia. The presence of these volunteer dancers was testimony to continuing efforts made in the US to instruct the younger generations in the Armenian heritage.