A100-Year Journey of Remembrance and Song Presented in Detroit


SOUTHFIELD, Mich. — An audience of more than 1,500 Detroiters and guests experienced an unforgettable evening in this year of many special events commemorating the Armenian Genocide. A 100 Year Journey of Remembrance and Song was a remarkable program of tribute to our now sainted martyrs and to the inspiring rebirth of Armenia.

Held in Detroit Symphony’s Orchestra Hall on Friday evening, June 19, 2015 under the direction of nationally renowned Artistic Director and Conductor Rubik Mailian, who is also music director at St. John Armenian Church in Southfield, the program featured the Detroit Armenian Chorale and Orchestra, the Hamazkayin Arax Dance Ensemble and the Karapetyan Quartet.

Welcoming remarks were made by Deacon Richard Norsigian, who is co-chair with Deacon Manouk Derovakimian of the Armenian Churches of Greater Detroit Genocide Committee. He thanked the Vanarian-Darrejian families for underwriting the event. The selections of the first half of the program were performed without applause, marked by playing chimes that rang out of respect to the martyrs.

The choir began with Hayastan (Smbatyan) which was accompanied by a dance choreographed especially by Nayiri Karapetian, Choreographer and Director of the Hamazkayin Arax Dance Ensemble. Each of the three accompanying dances were unique to the program. To add visually, as songs were sung, the program was illustrated by a slide show that projected powerful images of the genocide itself, or of cities and villages of historic and present day Armenia. The program booklet enhanced the effect by providing English translations for all of the songs.

Other selections included A Song of Eulogy for the Martyrs (music Garvarents: words Tekeyan) and Der Zor (music Pidejian: words Emin). Soorp Soorp (Komitas) was beautifully sung by the choir and Oror (Ganachian) by soloist Annette Mamassian and City of Many Rivers (Bingyol) by a trio solo of Elina Bagdasaryan, Helena Bardakjian and Annette Mamassian.

In this memorial, of particular interest were the survivors’ stories that described the horrors of the Armenian Genocide. The stories of Nishan Kasabian/Baltayan, choir member Dolly Matoian’s grandfather, Hamaspyr Chapoutian Baylarian, Marianne Dardarian’s grandmother, and Khanam Derderian Dergazarian, Annette Mamassian’s grandmother, were read by John Yavruaian, Carole Lynn Hovsepian and Dr. Joyce Yeghissian. Pictures of each survivor, as well as depictions of their village and ancestral home were shown on the screen.

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The final survivor story was submitted by Margaret Lafian, a memorial to the grandfather she never met. Lafian came forward to the microphone and read of her mother’s survival from Sepasdia. Her mother remembered vividly the night her father was taken from the house by the Turks and never seen again. Her tale was deeply moving.

The songs Requiem (Kuta Der) by Haroutunian and To the Martyrs of April (Nazaryants:Pidejian) brought this remembrance to an end.

The second half of the program, the rebirth of Armenia, was filled with a plethora of show stopping moments. One beautiful performance would be followed by another. Saints’ Eyes (Soorperoo Achker) dedicated to the Genocide Victims (Aharoyan:Tonoyan), was accompanied by special guests Sean Blackman, guitar, and Linda Hagopian on flute, along with Megan Chartier, cello. A slowly moving video of the canonization of the saints in Echmiadzin was shown while the dance ensemble performed in exquisitely adorned black costumes.

Soloist Jennifer Morgan sang Komitas’ It is Spring (Garoon-ah), beautifully. And that was followed by Rubik Mailian singing solo the much loved Le, Le My Beloved (Le, Le Yaman). These two songs with their interludes were beautifully arranged by the conductor Rubik Mailian on a poem “Unceasing Belfry,” written by Baruyr Sevag, recited by John Yavruian. Another favorite was a dance trio of Tamar Changelian, Lucine Cholakian, and Talio Oknayan lovingly presenting My Sweet Harp (Im Anoosh Davigh) by Avetisyan. The incredible performances continued with the Karapetyan Quartet, with violinist Henrik Karapetyan, playing Komitas’ Lullaby (oror), The Crane (Krounk), Red Shawl (Al Aylughs), and Echmiadzin Dance (Echmiadzin Bar) with delighted the audience who showed their appreciation with shouts of bravo.

Chorale presentations of Sacred Armenia (Surpazan Hayasdan) by Chavushyan and It is Green Around the Mill (Chaghatsee Polor Ganach) preceded the finale, Unity Dance (Miasnutyan Shoorchbar). The young dancers of the Dance Ensemble, with their enthusiasm and love of Armenian dancing, were a most fitting ending.

The audience gave a prolonged standing ovation and was reluctant to leave hoping for an encore. Words of praise were unending. The Armenian community has seen many memorable events this 100th year and Detroit has added its talents in tribute to the newly-sainted 1,500,000 martyrs.

— Elizabeth Aprahamian




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