By Robert Dulgarian
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — The Erevan Choral Society and Orchestra’s Christmas Holiday Concert will celebrate the 25th anniversary of Armenia’s independence and the 50th anniversary of the Erevan Choral Society on Sunday, December 11, at 7 p.m., in the Sanctuary of Holy Trinity Armenian Church of Greater Boston, 145 Brattle St. This year’s concert, under the direction of Composer Konstantin Petrossian, music director and conductor, will feature soloists Vagharshak Ohanyan, baritone, and Kate Norigian, soprano. The program will consist of a variety of traditional Armenian and Western sacred and holiday music. Opening the program will be the Harvard Callbacks, Harvard’s premier co-ed a cappella group specializing in bringing a soulful sound and powerful voices to modern favorites and classic hits alike. The Callbacks have achieved great renown within the collegiate a cappella community, having received titles from high profile competitions and compilation albums.
Erevan Choral Society at 50
In January 1966, the Very Rev. Oshagan Minassian, choir director of Holy Trinity Armenian Church, brought together a group of dedicated amateur singers, including members of the Holy Trinity Church Choir, to found the Erevan Choral Society, perhaps little suspecting what an enduring legacy was to be theirs. Nearly half a century later, the Erevan Choral Society can look back at a pioneering legacy in preserving and developing Armenian musical culture in North America, and forward to a future of continued efforts and rewards.
From its earliest days, the extraordinary dedication of Father Oshagan to exploring, performing, and advancing the legacy of Armenian classical and popular song has remained an animating principle of the Society. The Erevan Choral Society has performed countless works by such notable Armenian composers as Gomidas Vartabed, Alexander Haroutounian, Hampartzoum Berberian, Loris Cheknavorian, Parsegh Ganachian, Edgar Hovhanessian, Melik Mavisakalyan, Aram Satian, Konstantin Petrossian, Levon Chaushyan, Aram Satunts, Martin Vardazaryan and others too numerous to name; many performances have been world premieres. Additionally, the Society has always drawn upon both Western classical and popular repertoires for its Christmas Holiday and spring concerts. Several hundred amateur singers, Armenian and other, have taken part in the four-part mixed choir, and well over a hundred orchestral performers have graced the orchestra, while three talented accompanists (the late Helen Mouradjian, Valerie Becker, and most recently Nune Hakobyan) have underpinned the Choir’s rehearsals and performances. The Society has performed throughout New York and New England and travelled as far as California to perform in concerts that have been recorded and broadcast on radio and television. Many of its guest soloists have gone on to distinguished careers on the musical stage and the lecture hall.
The death of Father Oshagan in July 2008 precipitated something of a crisis in the Erevan Choral Society. A figure of such charisma and commitment is not easily replaced; yet the strength of his commitment to Armenian music, culture, and the community argued strongly for the passing of the torch. Fortunately, thanks to the determination of the core membership and of Father Vasken Kouzouian, pastor of Holy Trinity, Erevan Choral has found renewed life under the baton of Composer Konstantin Petrossian, culminating most recently in a series of commemorative concerts marking the centenary of the Armenian Genocide. Now, with members old and new and the support of the Armenian community, clergy, and music lovers, the Erevan Choral Society is poised to embark upon its second half-century.