By Florence Avakian
NEW YORK — It was a DHAP concert like no other. The annual Direct Help for Armenian People (DHAP) concert which has taken place at the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall annually, was unique this year. The October 10th event was in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, and it presented legendary composer from Armenia, Robert Amirkhanyan.
With the recital hall filled to capacity, the attendees were in for an evening that will soon not be forgotten. Robert Amirkhanyan, President of the Union of Composers and Musicologists in Armenia, and a Knight of the Order of St. Mesrob Mashdots, strode out onto the stage to thunderous applause and cheering, and drank in the acclaim for several minutes. Then, the afternoon evolved into part family-like celebration, part joyous memories, part humorous commentary, and ALL heart and beloved Amirkhanyan songs. It was an eruption of passion through the Amirkhanyan legacy of music.
The composer’s down-to-earth and warm personality was fused into every commentary and musical presentation, as he sat at the piano, conversing with the audience, and playing throughout the three-hour concert, (though he was suffering from a hurt shoulder). As latecomers came in, he humorously pointed them out, gently told people to quiet their cell phones, and even wished good health to someone who sneezed in the audience.
But it was his music which captivated all. Opening with his song, Yeraz Im Yergir (I Dream of My Country), he accompanied his playing with emotional remembrances, expressing genuine love for his Armenian homeland, bringing some in the audience to tears. Before, during and after each song, he often conversed, sometimes singing along with his own playing.
Among several of his well-known solos which also displayed his impassioned feelings were Nerir Indz (Forgive Me), Yes Vakhanum Em (I Am Afraid) and Tagh Andznakan (Goodby). To the surprise of all, he introduced his daughter, special guest Maria Amirkhanyan, an award-winning pianist, and currently an instructor at Gavilan College. She performed the tender Karnan Gatilner (Raindrops of Spring).