CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — The third week of April saw a wave of commemorations for the centenary of the Armenian Genocide sweep the world. Most strikingly, on April 23, at the Mother See of Holy Echmiadzin, the Armenian Apostolic Church canonized the 1.5 million Armenian victims as sainted martyrs. The Armenians of Greater Boston mounted their own commemorations in that solemn week, starting on Sunday, April 19, with the first spring concert of the Erevan Choral Society since the death of its inspirational founder, the Very Rev. Oshagan Minassian in 2008.
The Genocide Centennial Concert, titled “Lest We Forget,” in an apt echo of Kipling’s hymn Recessional, was performed in the sanctuary of the Holy Trinity Armenian Church to a capacity crowd. The extraordinary event combined a musical program of religious and secular song, compiled and conducted by Composer Konstantin Petrossian, with moving Armenian poetry recitations spread throughout the concert by the students of the Holy Trinity Armenian School who flawlessly offered inspirational poems by such early 20th century poetic luminaries as Baruyr Sevak, Gevorg Emin, Kegham Sarian and Yeghishe Charentz.
The concert opened with the American and Armenian national anthems and included Krikor Pidedjian’s stirring Der Zor (setting words of Gevorg Emin), a world premiere of Levon Chaushyan’s Srbazan Hayastan and a lyrical setting by Composer Petrossian of Akh, Vaspourakan. Also premiered was a corrected version of Makar Ekmalian’s immensely moving Ov Hayotz Kajer. In addition, duduk soloist David Gevorkian offered a plangent rendering of the folk song Dle Yaman. The multi-talented Nune Hakobyan provided organ accompaniment throughout the concert.
Following the musical portion of the program, a traditional Hokehankisd (Requiem) Service was collectively offered by the clergy present and presided over by a former pastor of Holy Trinity, Archbishop Yeghishe Gizirian. The success of the Erevan Choral Society’s performance testified to the talent, commitment, and devotion of singers, musicians, and readers, and the audience was enormously complementary.
As befitted the solemnity of the commemoration, the mayor of the City of Cambridge, David P. Maher, delivered an official proclamation reaffirming Cambridge’s recognition of the Armenian Genocide, and the city’s membership in a company that newly includes the Vatican, Germany, Austria and 43 states in the United States.
Archbishop Yeghishe Gizirian delivered a stirring closing blessing, while Fr. Vasken Kouzouian, pastor of Holy Trinity, delivered his traditional welcome and blessing with characteristic warmth, reminding the assembly that commemorations will continue for the rest of the year and beyond. “The ideals for which our ancestors died have not perished,” stated Kouzouian. “Our martyred relatives,” he continued, “died for their faith and for their national and cultural dignity. They died for a cause, and as long as the cause is alive and breathing, they live on . . ..”