BEREA, Ohio — Loris Ohannes Chobanian, Baldwin Wallace University Professor Emeritus and Composer-in-Residence’s composition Der Voghormia (Lord Have Mercy) for Chorus, Piano and Timpani was premiered by BW Singers conducted by Marc Weagraff with Debra Comodeca, piano and Josh Ryan, timpani, on Sunday March 22, at the BW Conservatory Gamble Auditorium.
The capacity audience included a significant presence from the Cleveland-area Armenians and members of the Saint Gregory of Narek Armenian Church together with Pastor Father Hratch Sargsyan. Prior to the premiere the conductor Marc Weagraff expressed his appreciation for the new Der Voghormia and urged the public to read the program notes which read as follows: “The prayer Der Voghormia was composed for the Armenian Church in Baghdad. Today’s performance is the US premiere. Historic Armenia is located in the Mount Ararat plateau. Tigranes the Great (140-55 BC) was emperor of Armenia under whom the country became the strongest state east of the Roman Republic. Christianity was introduced to Armenia by apostles Thaddeus and Bartholomew. Armenia became the first nation to adopt Christianity as its official Religion in the year AD 301. The date April 24, 2015 is the centennial of April 24, 1915 in which the Ottoman Turkish Muslims unleashed their massacres of the Armenians in the Armenian Genocide, the first Genocide of the Twentieth Century. The composer’s mother and grandmother were victims of the Armenian Genocide. The prayer Der Voghormia also proclaims to implore peace to the world. The Timpani are placed at the balcony and respond to the prayer from above.”
The BW Singer’s pronunciation of the Armenian text was impressively authentic. The composer had met with the singers and dwelled on articulating the proper Armenian pronunciation. The singers seemed to love the composition. The response to the prayer from the powerful Timpani made an unbelievable out of worldly impact. It was not clear where the sound of the Timpani was coming from. The music of Der Voghormia will be available to Armenian Churches throughout the United States.
Chobanian was born to Armenian parents in Mosul, Iraq. He was introduced to serious music at an early age. His father Ohannes Chobanian, an oil engineer and an amateur musician, was a versatile performer on the piano, the flute and the violin. His favorite composers were Mozart and Komidas. He composed an operetta “O, Loris!” which the 5 year old Loris sang in the city of Kirkuk. The elder Chobanian conducted the orchestra. He often organized plays and concerts for the Armenian communities in Mosul and Kirkuk. As an engineer he was also instrumental in bringing electricity to the city of Mosul.
In the 1950s, Chobanian performed the Classical Guitar regularly on Baghdad Television. After 1960 he performed on TV in Louisiana and in Michigan. Chobanian was instrumental in establishing the Baldwin Wallace University Conservatory Guitar and Composition programs as well as the Focus Contemporary Music Festival. He also established the position of the Baldwin Wallace Composer-in-Residence. During 1973, as the first ASTA Guitar Division Chairman, he organized the ASTA Guitar Convention that brought together for the first time, US University and College guitar teachers. The convention led to the establishment of the Guitar Foundation of America and became the model that has been replicated by the annual GFA Conventions. Winner of the Cleveland Arts Prize he has taught at the Oberlin Conservatory and the University of Akron. An expert conductor, he often conducts his own compositions as guest composer with university, high school and professional orchestras. In July of 2015 the composer will attend the Music Festival at Strasbourg, France, where his composition FANTASIA will be performed by the Trio Bel Canto.
On Sunday, March 15, Chobanian’s composition Visage for Flute and Piano was performed by Sean Gabriel, flute and Debra Comadeca, piano at the Cleveland Composer’s Guild concert. The composition made a strong impact and was very well received by the audience. Visage refers to the condition in which memory can be deceptive. At times it is difficult to identify features one has experienced a long time earlier. The study of human memory stretches back at least 2000 years to Aristotle’s early attempts to understand memory in his treaties “On the Soul.” Visage expresses the condition where a face seen many years earlier could not be easily recalled. Musical motives represent the diverse facial features encountered. New compositions that will be premiered next year include “SPARKS” Sinfonia for Marimba and Piano and Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra. In “SPARKS” the composer has elevated the Marimba to function as a truly expressive artistic medium. In five sections the composition creates contrasts using sounds reminiscent of bird calls and the resonance of calm sea waves. Professors Josh Ryan, marimba and Robert Mayerovtch, piano will present the World Premiere. Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra which also wll be premiered next year was composed especially for Bassoonist Renee Anthony Dee, 1977 graduate of Baldwin Wallace Conservatory. According to the composer: “The bassoon’s upper register has a beautiful quality but it does not project as well as that of the lower register which can be assertive and powerful. As a result the orchestra parts can easily cover the upper melodic themes of the bassoon. Historically there have been many concertos for different instruments with heavy orchestral parts that would cover the themes of the solo instrument. In such cases the conductor often has to readjust the instrumentation to solve the problem.