WESTWOOD, Calif. — The VEM Ensemble is making a North American tour with performances in Detroit (March 27), Montreal (March 29), Boston (March 31), and Glendale (April 27) and Altadena, California (May 19), organized with the Tekeyan Cultural Association of the United States and Canada. A new musical piece based on the poetry of Vahan Tekeyan will receive its premiere during this tour and musical masterpieces by Gomidas, Khachaturian, and Western classical composers will comprise the rest of the program. The concerts are sponsored by the Tekeyan Cultural Association of the United States and Canada, with support from the UCLA Armenian Music program at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music.
The VEM Ensemble consists of the VEM Graduate String Quartet, in residence at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, and a singer, currently mezzo-soprano Danielle Segen. VEM means “rock” in Armenian, symbolizing the strength and power of this ensemble to bring to live music written by prominent and emerging Armenian composers.
The ensemble is the cornerstone of the newly created Armenian Music Program at UCLA, which, thanks to generous donor support as well as artistic guidance of the Lark Musical Society, endeavors to raise awareness and celebrate the richness and diversity of Armenian musical tradition. As part of their studies, members of the quartet strive to cultivate an appreciation and passion for Armenian music throughout the community through musical performances, music education, outreach services, and a series of collaborations with composers to create new works dedicated to and enriching the Armenian cultural heritage.
The VEM Quartet, coached by its Artistic Director Movses Pogossian, has worked with such musicians as Kim Kashkashian, Seth Knopp, David Starobin, Nickolas Kitchen, and Tigran Mansurian. In his review of their performance at the Incontri in Terra di Sierra Festival in Tuscany, Italy, critic Laurence Vittes writes: “The evening’s most memorable music was made by the VEM Quartet…who laid out Eduard Mirzoyan’s String Quartet with a feline, subtle grace that touched hearts with its gentle melodic content and long-lined eloquence.”
Artashes Kartalyan: Tekeyan Triptych
An exciting world premiere to be presented during this 2019 tour is of the recently completed Tekeyan Triptych by Artashes Kartalyan, commissioned by the Tekeyan Cultural Association in 2018. This is a remarkable composition structured around three poems by Vahan Tekeyan (1875-1945), widely regarded as the “Prince of Armenian Poetry.” Its poetic choices, focusing on two love poems followed by a meditation on what one leaves behind, combined with intricate musicality, promises to make the Tekeyan Triptych one of the composer’s masterpieces.