ECHMIADZIN — The members of Ars Musica agreed that the musical and cultural highpoint of their extensive visit was the final event. The renowned men’s chorus from Thuringia, Germany, was concluding a two-week concert tour that renewed and enriched their relationship to Armenia. The friendship had begun more than thirty years earlier, when many of today’s singers were members of a boys’ choir. In 1988, they had performed a concert in the city of Suhl, in solidarity with the victims of the Armenian earthquake. And in 2018 the Ars Musica singers commemorated the anniversary again with a major choral performance. In July of this year, they kicked off their current initiative with a concert in Halle, the twin city of Gyumri, and then in August flew to Yerevan to embark on an ambitious musical itinerary.
The venue for the final concert on August 28 was the modern auditorium in the Echmiadzin monastery, seat of the Catholicos of all Armenians. Following a visit through the treasure chamber and the spacious grounds of the site, they performed for a large audience, which included dignitaries of the monastery and the Apostolic church. Just days earlier was the 70th birthday of the Catholicos Karekin II. The concert featured works from the classical and spiritual repertoire as well as Armenian pieces.
In the course of their packed visit, the men’s chorus visited several landmark sites in Armenia’s religious history, beginning with the Khor Virap monastery, which offered the view of Mount Ararat, and Noravank, where they visited the chapel and enjoyed lunch. Next was the Tatev monastery, which they reached via the “Wings of Tatev” cableway. Here they gained initial insights into the historical significance of Armenia’s religious tradition and architecture. And here they had their first opportunity to express their gratitude through music. Although, as they noted in their reports on the trip for their website (https://arsmusica.de), it is not common for churches in Armenia to host formal concerts, they were permitted to perform a 40-minute program of sacred works to an appreciative audience, which included the regional Primate of the church. They also sang Armenian works in the original language in what would become a regular feature of their events.
The next historic sites they encountered were the classical temple at Garni, and the Geghard monastery. In a chapel at Geghard, they presented a small concert, their music enhanced by the unique atmosphere and marvelous acoustics of the venue. They later visited the Sevanavank monastery, where they sang a short program following evening prayers.
Not only churches and monasteries, but also schools, museums and social centers welcomed the visiting musicians. In the capital, the Ars Musica singers had a chance to see the art collections at the Cascade and to encounter the Mother Armenia monument, before reaching the Armenian Genocide memorial at Tsitsernakaberd. There, after taking a tour through the museum, they honored the memory of the victims by laying flowers at the monument.