In June 2021, the Brussels-based Akhtamar Quartet conducted a three-week concert tour in Armenia, performing 20 concerts free of charge for varied audiences, with the aim of bringing hope, optimism and moral support through the power of music. Armenians were still suffering from the effects of the November 2020 war, and the Covid pandemic. The tour was a resounding success, and as a result, they have decided to repeat the experience, this time in Lebanon.
In 2020 that country and its people were shattered by the Beirut port explosion, which further aggravated an already dramatic economic crisis, compounded by the pandemic; a deteriorating financial situation, rising unemployment and massive unemployment have created a situation producing “the worst kind of spiritual distress.” In presenting their solidarity project, the Akhtamar Quartet writes that “when both actions and words cease to function, solidarity between people remains.” And it is the aim of the “Music 4 Lebanon” project to remoralize vast layers of the population, by bringing them the healing power of music.
As they did in Armenia last year, they plan to offer 15 concerts throughout the country, again for free. They begin in Beirut on September 6, and will perform in Baakline, Mashghara, Joub Jannine, Hammana, Baalbek, Hermel, Mish Mish, Bqerzala, Halba, Tripoli, and Bsharre, before returning to Beirut on September 19. Again, they have scheduled performances for people who are particularly vulnerable under the current crisis conditions, patients in hospitals, children in schools, residents of nursing homes and refugee camps. In Yerevan, they had presented a master class with students at the Komitas Conservatory and in Beirut they will organize an encounter to share music and experiences with students at the National Conservatory. Again, for children, they will present their musical/theatrical show, “The Dream Makers,” which had energized and delighted youngsters in Gyumri.
The name of the quartet was inspired by the Armenian Miniatures by Komitas/Azlamazyan, a central component of the ensemble’s performances since its inception. Based in Brussels, where it was founded in 2014, the quartet features violinists Coline Alécian and Jennifer Pio, violist Ondine Stasyk, and cellist Cyril Sinon. The ensemble was one of six chosen for the Tremplin Jeunes Quatuor of the Paris Philharmonic in 2016, and in that same year, it received the second prize at the Festival Musiq3 of Belgium. Last year they came in third at the International Johannes Brahms Competition. They have performed widely throughout Europe, as well as Armenia, and in 2020 released their first CD, with Komitas Miniatures and “an Armenian quartet” composed for them by Eugénie Alécian, a pianist and composer from Paris whose niece is a violinist with the quartet.