HALLE, Germany — The cathedral in Halle is huge, but once the doors closed and visitors had taken their seats, it was almost full — at least as full as it could be under pandemic conditions of social distancing.
In mid-afternoon on Sunday, July 18, the church in this Thuringian city hosted the opening concert in a series that will continue during August in several Armenian cities, including Halle’s sister city, Gyumri.
The fact that Gyumri and Halle are finalizing the process is itself historic, as this is the first such partnership between cities in the two nations. In Germany, virtually every city has a partner in another country, but until now, none has had a twin city status in Armenia.
Presenting an ambitious and highly differentiated program was Ars Musica, a male chorus that has been engaged in projects for Armenia over many years. (https://mirrorspectator.com/2021/06/17/ars-musica-to-perform-in-armenia/) Most of the chorus members started out in a boys choir in the city of Suhl, a choir that presented a benefit concert in 1988 following the earthquake. In 2018, the adult chorus raised funds at a concert which financed the renovation of the auditorium at the H. Tumanyan middle school in Lichk.
Now Ars Musica has launched a new Armenian initiative. Postponed from 2020 due to the Covid crisis, the project involves a series of benefit concerts in historic locations: the monasteries in Tatev, Geghard and Sevanavank, the House of Hope and Komitas Museum in Yerevan, Echmiadzin and Gavar. In Lichk they will perform in the new auditorium and in Gyumri at the Black Fortress.
Armenian Ambassador to Germany Ashot Smbatyan said, in greetings published in the concert tour program, that he was especially glad that the Halle concert would be replicated in Gyumri, as it will be “an important cornerstone for the expansion of the recently established city partnership between Halle and Gyumri.” And the proceeds from the concert will contribute to musical education in the city, known as the cultural capital of Armenia. The conservatory in Gyumri, a branch of the Komitas Conservatory of Yerevan State University, would like to offer classical harp instruction, but lacks the instrument. Together with Ars Musica, the Mirak-Weissbach Foundation and the Halle Rotary Club have donated funds to purchase a Venera Grand Concert Harp. It should be officially presented at the concert on August 22.