From left, Karine Poghosyan, Fr. Merop Parsamyan and Vicki Shoghag Hovanessian

Proceeds from Armenian Independence Day Concert to Benefit People of Artsakh


By Florence Avakian

NEW YORK — It is rare for an event to be dedicated to both joy and grief.

On Wednesday, September 20, at St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral, a sold out classical music concert took place, originally planned and organized to celebrate the 32nd year of the independence of Armenia.

However, just the day before, on September 19, a massive military assault had taken place by Azerbaijan against the 120,000 starving Armenians on their ancestral land of Artsakh.

The Eastern Diocese and the organizing committee decided that the proceeds from the concert will be given to the people of Artsakh through the Fund for Armenian Relief (FAR).

Sponsoring the concert was the Eastern Armenian Diocese, and its Primate, the Very Rev. Mesrop Parsamyan. Clergy also in attendance included Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, former Eastern Diocesan Primate, and current Pontifical Legate of Western Europe and Representative of the Armenian Church to the Holy See; St. Vartan Cathedral Vicar Rev. Davit Karamyan; and St. Nersess Dean Rev. Mardiros Chevian.

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In an eloquent welcoming address for the evening’s uplifting program of remembrance, the Primate first reflected that “tonight we are also carrying a heavy burden of painful news in our hearts. We woke up yesterday learning about yet another surprise attack on our ancestral land of Artsakh that has already resulted in the loss of many innocent lives, including children.”

Continuing in a solemn voice, the Primate stated, “I must be honest with you — the first thought that came to our mind was to cancel tonight’s concert. And yet, after some thoughtful consideration, we realized that it would not be the way of the Armenian people. With a strength of heart and faith in God, we have faced every evil and adversity one can imagine throughout our history — and yet we have endured with patience and resilience as a people of God, as a nation and as a civilization.”

Calling the concert “a testament to our strength, unwavering hope, and the endurance of the Armenian civilization,” he declared, “no matter how many times the enemy tries to eliminate us from the face of this earth and erase our culture, heritage and faith, we will continue to fortify our faith, create goodness, and share with people our rich cultural heritage.”

The Primate then asked the concert attendees to join him in a moment of silence “in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in Artsakh, and in tribute to the losses of these past days, and past years in our beloved homeland.”

With the crowd standing in unified silence, Parsamyan prayed for God’s “divine mercy for the protection of our fellow brothers and sisters in Armenia as they faced attacks and unprovoked aggression against the peace-loving people of Nagorno-Karabagh. Loving God, listen to the voice of our supplications, and help the innocent civilians of our ancestral land, Artsakh who are under continuous bombardment and assaults by Azerbaijani forces.”

The Primate prayed for God’s protection, courage, resolve and strength for our homeland, and to increase the “wisdom among those who are at the helm of the state so they can wisely lead our people during these dangerous times for the Armenian nation.”

With a closing prayer for the courageous souls who have died “in these brutal and genocidal attacks,” he asked all to pray to save those still under attack, and for the end of this aggression. He also prayed for the “spirit of courage, unity, care and love for one another, and understanding so we can stand up for the truth and help each other during times of trial and tribulation, especially for our brothers and sisters in Armenia.”

From left, Jason Tramm, Sossy Setrakian, Seta Paskalian Kantardjian, Fr. Mesrop Parsamyan, Der Davit Karamyan, Vicki Shoghag Hovanessian, Yng. Ala Terzyan Karamyan, Tamar Barsamian Degermenc

Musical Masterpieces

Before the Cathedral altar, the youthful 45-piece Mid-Atlantic Philharmonic Orchestra was in place with Jason Tramm, a much decorated choral, symphonic, and operatic conductor, and an accomplished educator at Seton Hall University.

Karine Poghosyan, an award winning pianist who has had several sold-out recitals at Carnegie Hall and who has a world-wide following with multiple glowing press coverages, then confidently entered in a glittering gold dress, her right wrist adorned with a satin covering displaying the Armenian flag colors.

One of the greatest and most beloved monumental compositions, Sergey Rachmaninoff’s soulful and towering Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, a piano and orchestral masterpiece with its different themes and thudding climax, filled every crevice of the vast cathedral.

The pianist and conductor reflected the expressiveness and sentimentality of this epic work of genius with their virtuosity and emotional body movements. And they were rewarded with a loud standing ovation lasting several minutes.

Another masterpiece followed. Aram Khachaturian’s Piano Concerto in D-Flat Major, employs soulful Armenian folk melodies, unique harmonies and colorful orchestration. Again, the pianist, conductor and orchestra displayed their mastery, to another long standing ovation.

Poghosyan then presented an encore, the much loved Khachaturian’s Toccata for solo piano, which again reflected the composer’s Armenian roots with its folk melodies and rhythms, and several contemporary themes. She provided the necessary skill, sweep and control with her artistry.

Bouquets of flowers were presented to both the pianist and conductor by the organizing committee to the delight of the audience who continued their ovation.

Rev. Karamyan expressed his appreciation to the benefactors of this special event, Harry and Suzanne Toufayan, Vicki Shoghag Hovanessian, and John Mahdessian in memory of his father Noubar Mahdessian.

“Our music has always reflected the pain and hope of our people and nation,” stated Karamyan.

The organizer of the concert and its committee, Hovanessian, paid tribute to the 32nd anniversary of the independent Armenian nation with the beautiful musical performance, and expressed appreciation to Primate Fr. Mesrop Parsamyan “for his vision in encouraging this cultural event,” and to Karamyan and the hardworking committee for their “invaluable help”.

She then reflected on the 10-month blockade, and now the brutal attack on Artsakh and its people. “It is our prayer and resolute conviction that we will face these atrocities and difficulties with the resilient spirit our nation.”

The organizing committee included co-chair Seta Pascalian Kantarjian, and Sossy Setrakian, Lily Sarkissian, Yn. Alla Terzyan Karamyan and Tamar Barsamian Degermenci.

Following the event, a gathering of concert attendees took place on the St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral Plaza, with coffee and cookies. Due to the attack on Artsakh, the original plan to serve champagne in celebration of Armenia’s independence was changed.

Arts aficionado John Wolohojian, reflecting the feelings of so many, called the concert “very accomplished. It was so important to show the timeless and heroic spirit of Armenia and Artsakh. And it is crucial to help the people in Artsakh as much as we can,” he stated in tribute to the decision to send all the concert’s proceeds to the suffering people of Artsakh through the Fund for Armenian Relief.


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