Dancers of all ages enjoy the DJ music (photo: Nancy Kalajian)

Hye Spirit Prevails at Armenian Church of Cape Cod July Dance

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By Nancy Kalajian

Special to the Mirror-Spectator

FALMOUTH, Mass. — Spirits and supporters were Hye for the Armenian Church of Cape Cod’s Second Annual Kef Time Fourth of July Weekend held at the Cape Club in North Falmouth. From Armenians living in the greater Cape Cod area to visitors from as far off as California and Florida, with a baby in her mother’s dancing arms to a woman holding the hands of her mom to lead her into a Sebastatsi dance, from the sun-deprived to the weathered, from those dressed casually or to the hilt, revelers came, began or renewed acquaintances, and shared in an Armenian ambiance and experience that can only be matched by warm memories made years ago at East Coast summer kefs on Cape Cod. The twist was that this event was also a fundraiser in support of the Armenian Church of Cape Cod.

The elegant clubhouse surrounded by a golf course provided an interesting juxtaposition of two types of seemingly endless Armenian-themed musical experiences with traditional Kef Time style music played in a rotunda-style room by Leon Janikian on clarinet, Harry Bedrossian on oud , Charlie Demenjian on dumbeg , Kenny Kalajian on guitar with special guests: oudist Harry Minassian and oudist / violinist Johnny Berberian sitting in for a few numbers; at the same time at the other end of a long hallway was the more modern style of contemporary music popular in Armenia today, played by DJ Shaeen of New Pulse Entertainment. In between both rooms was a food station, and a bar area where hors d’oeuvres and colorfully packaged raffle and auction items were set up. The wide-ranging raffle items included handmade crafts and even a handsome roster of Cape Cod and Watertown restaurants and retail establishments. With dining, hugging, dancing, conversing and auctioning aplenty, there seemed to be something for everyone. With music playing in the background, the advantage of such a large space was that you could easily move to various other event spaces or corridors to chat and network if you wanted to converse in between dancing.

Julia Herosian and Robbie Sacco at the dessert table (Photo: Nancy Kalajian)

This well-planned event was the brainchild of Andrea Barber, a resident of North Falmouth, who for years frequented the extremely popular Fourth of July Kef weekends formerly held at the Sea Crest at Old Silver Beach in Falmouth that were organized by Charles Krikorian. With the old Kefs in mind, along with the great financial needs for the church to grow and flourish, this fundraiser to benefit the Armenian Church of Cape Cod seemed a good fit for a popular summer weekend. Some of the food served during the evening even had an Armenian flare. Andrea Barber reports that this year’s event was very successful as was the inaugural Kef last year. Word of mouth even drew some first time participants like Lucine Bahtiarian of Bedford who was pleased with the event. She said, “We heard so many good things about it.”

Andrea Barber, Chairperson of Armenian Church of Cape Cod’s second annual Kef, with her husband, David, at a different occasion (photo: Nancy Kalajian)

Artak Sahakyan, chair of the Cape Cod Parish, was enjoying Armenian pilaf and chicken with his wife, Meri, and daughter, Nareh. Sitting with his family as the DJ played, Sahakyan, a builder by profession, shared his thoughts on this “awesome, very successful event. Andrea Barber came up with this idea. The Armenian community makes sure everyone knows and supports each other, to keep our culture together, to know Armenians in the community and learn from the older generation and preserve our culture and language. We’ve created an Armenian Sunday School with Eliza Gevorkyan working with eight kids. There are about 10-15 families here from Yerevan and about 100 families from the older (earlier) generation.”

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Reflecting in a quieter spot outside on the balcony bordering the room where kef-style music was playing, Harry Minassian shared, “A lot of people said they listen to my records and that’s why they wanted to come down for this event.” Upon further chatting, Minassian shared how he learned from the greatest oud master from Turkey. “I took lessons from Udi Hrant when I was in my 20’s. We spoke to each other in Turkish and Armenian. He did things on the oud that no one else did.” After a little digging and a warm admiring twinkle in his eyes, Minassian further explained, “It was his way of playing, his fingering. He’d come (to the US) months at a time.” During a musical break in the course of the evening, Artak Sahakyan spoke to attendees, warmly thanking Andrea and David Barber, and Rev. Khachatur Kesablyan, mission pastor, for their support, and “for keeping the community together.” He invited people to come to the Sunday School and Badarak held the first Saturday of each month, and to continue to eat and enjoy the plentiful food available during the evening. Organizer Andrea Barber spoke of support from her family, her husband David and appreciation of her volunteer committee of Janice, Andy, Amanda, Mary and Pattie as well as Wendy from the Cape Club. Kesablyan spoke next and expressed appreciation to the organizers, parish and supporters, and encouraged community, financial and spiritual involvement with this important mission church. Two years ago when the Parish Council met and reviewed their budget, parishioner Andrea Barber said, “Der Hayr , I will help you” and the first successful Cape Cod church event was planned and later executed under her direction. Addressing Andrea Barber, Kesablyan expressed “appreciation for your tireless efforts.” Kesablyan, the pastor of Saints Vartanantz Church of Chelmsford, had driven to the Cape immediately after he finished directing a session with 80 campers at the Diocese’s St. Vartan Camp in New York. He was so delighted to share the exciting news that six campers from the Cape Cod mission church were able to come to St. Vartan Camp this year and that with the community support “doors of the Armenian mission parish are open for generations to enjoy.

As one of the oldest mission parishes in the Eastern Diocese, services are held the first Saturday of each month at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Osterville. “They are very welcoming to us,” shared Der Khachatur. Visiting clergy participate in the summers and deacons from St. Vartanantz, or more recently Deacon Shant Broukian, who is working on the Cape, have assisted the pastor. “One day, God willing, we’ll have a small chapel or church where we can have our badaraks. One challenge this mission church faces is that not so many Armenian live here year round, and many that are on the Cape keep their memberships with their home parish. (Our focus) is to keep the Armenian spirit, culture and language alive — but most important is to pray together.”

“We all loved the Kefs at the Sea Crest; it was a nice way to see everybody. Unfortunately that came to an end. Thanks to Andrea Barber and her committee, this is an awesome way to get everyone together again to kick off the summer. It’s like a reunion and an excellent way to get together for the church, and at the same time, we are doing this for the church,” remarked Pamela Gechijian of Falmouth and Lincoln. Her husband Ara added, “The most important thing is exposing the youth to the Armenian culture and environment. No youth, no future. The youth will be perpetuating our future.” Hailing from Gyumri (Leninakan), Armenia’s second largest city, about 12 years ago, Vahagn Arakelyan reflected, “We need to get together more often to have a stronger community and know and help each other.”

Topics: Cape Cod, Dance
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