The Pogossian family at Lake Sevan in 2022

Pogossian Family Yerevan Concert Supports Displaced Artsakh Families in Poverty

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By Movses Pogossian

YEREVAN — Playing music together as a family has been one of those blessings of life that my wife Varty and I feel very fortunate about. Seeing our children grow with a love of chamber music, fueled in large part by our summers at the Apple Hill Chamber Music Festival in New Hampshire, where both of us taught for many consecutive years, fills me with emotion. Aside from the obvious joy of experiencing the precious process of live music making and being touched by the grace of music geniuses of the past as well as working to give birth to newly written music compositions, there is an additional philosophical and deeply educational aspect that I feel strongly. Chamber music, in its core, is a truly democratic environment, without a division into “generals and soldiers,” where one has to be capable to lead and to follow, and where everyone in the group has its own equally unique and distinctive voice. Thinking in retrospect, this was an incredibly powerful and educational experience as my wife and I were, in fact, receiving free lessons on how to be the best parents we can, with the help of playing music together, and trying not to fall into the many traps of common inter-generational dissonances.

One of my happiest memories from 8 years ago is our first Music for Food concert at the Sunday Montrose Farmers Market, walking distance from our home in Glendale, CA. Through the efforts of our daughter Cara and her schoolmates, we got a booth space, put up a simple poster, placed an empty violin case on the street for cash donations, and proceeded to play music for about 4 hours, along with a good number of our family’s friends – a very diverse group of professionals from the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Hollywood studios, current and former students, and our children’s middle school and high school friends. We kept swapping players and pieces, laughed a lot, but also made a few hundred dollars that were donated to the Food Bank in Burbank. For all of us, it was a simple yet effective lesson in giving and receiving, and also about stepping out of self-imposed boundaries and comfort zones. Since then, we have performed at a variety of venues and events, highlighting the ugly fact of an enormous food insecurity problem that, shockingly, exists in the richest country in the world. During the pandemic, while isolating at our home, we were lucky to be able to continue playing music together and produced a few charity video concerts from our living room, highlighting this important problem, and other causes that we care about (some of our past performances can be seen on our Youtube channel).

Music for Food concert in Glendale, Calif. in 2016

Preparing for an upcoming family concert in Armenia (and joined by our dear friend, an incredible composer and pianist Artur Avanesov), has an additional powerful and personal meaning. I was dreaming of coming back to perform in Armenia with the entire family for my parents and close friends for quite some time, and we were all set to do it in June of 2020, but the pandemic had other ideas, unfortunately. It took four more years of planning since then, since all five of us are now busy professionals, and it is a logistical challenge to find even a few days when everyone is available. But, finally, we have a date and a location: June 15 in the wonderfully renovated Babajanyan Concert Hall, which was formerly known as the “Small Hall of the Philharmonic,” and where I spent many evenings attending memorable concerts in my formative years growing up in Yerevan. We will be performing chamber music masterpieces by Haydn, Mozart, Schumann, as well as the Armenian premiere of Artur Avanesov’s Piano Trio. It also so happens that on the very next day my wife and I will be celebrating our 30th marriage anniversary (we got married in Yerevan in-between two rehearsals with the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra).

It is not possible to ignore the pain of the recent events in Armenia, and the significant challenges that the society has to deal with on a daily basis. Therefore, it just makes sense to us as a family to use our upcoming concert to highlight a real and a very present problem. We have teamed up with a wonderful organization, Armenian Progressive Youth NGO (APY) to donate all of the proceeds from the concert towards their noble work of providing essential food and household items to displaced families from Artsakh, particularly those living in poverty with four or more children under 18 years old. We will also visit the APY headquarters for an outreach performance and meeting with the APY community.

The Pogossian family some years ago

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As Armenia’s market-based economy has rapidly took off in the recent years, with some rather incredible examples of opulence and excess, it is shocking for me to witness numerous contrasting examples of poverty and social inequality, with the current state of things being deeply unsettling, and simply unfair. I think it is up to every person to do what they can, so that relatively small efforts can add up – not only financially, but, more crucially, to improve the ways of thinking and functioning in society.

Together with Grigor Yeritzian, founding president of the APY, we are planning to highlight and bring awareness to the Artsakh refugees’ very real difficulties and needs. In addition, our family will perform a free community concert in Dilijan on June 17 at the beautifully renovated Dilijan State College of the Arts – a project that was made possible by the very generous and continuous support of the Toufayan family and the Fund for Armenian Relief.

We are very grateful to Music for Food and its founder, the inspirational musician and our dear friend Kim Kashkashian, for making available the Music for Food’s network to amplify our cause. To process donations outside of Armenia, please visit this link (please make a note “for Armenia concert”). And our thanks also go to the Armenian Mirror Spectator and the Tekeyan Cultural Association for their kind help with providing this platform for us.

For those able to attend the June 15 concert in person, here is a direct link to buying the tickets.

The Musicians

The Pogossian Family Ensemble is a family of classical musicians that frequently plays chamber music together in a variety of concert settings. They often perform to support Music for Food, a Boston-based non-profit which raises awareness for food shortages, and shares the powerful role music can play as a catalyst for change. During the recent pandemic, the family produced several online concerts, performing repertoire ranging from Mozart, Bartók, and Komitas to world premieres by Aida Shirazi, Ian Krouse, Artashes Kartalyan, and Timo Andres, written for the Ensemble.

Cellist Edvard Pogossian was recently appointed Professor of Cello at the Royal Northern College of Music (UK), and is a member of the award-winning “Trio Isimsiz”. Named Overall Winner of the 2022 Tunbridge Wells International Music Competition, he has recently released his first solo CD on Linn Records, “Journey through Armenia”, which includes a world premiere of Tigran Hamasyan’s Cello Sonata written for him. Edvard tours with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and often performs as guest Principal Cellist with The Royal Northern Sinfonia (UK) and other European orchestras. He holds degrees from The Juilliard School, Royal College of Music, Royal Academy of Music, and the Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel.

Cara Pogossian (Boston), a graduate of the New England Conservatory and the Curtis Institute of Music, is a sought after solo, chamber, and orchestral performer. She is Principal Violist of the Portland Symphony Orchestra (ME), and recently performed Bartók’s Viola Concerto in Jordan Hall as winner of the NEC Concerto Competition. She has performed at the Marlboro, Ravinia, Taos, and Perlman Music Programs and Festivals, and is also featured on the Delos label’s recording of E. Schulhoff’s chamber music.

A US Presidential Scholar in the Arts, clarinetist Anoush Pogossian (New York) is pursuing her graduate studies at The Juilliard School, having completed her Bachelors in Psychology with honors at Columbia University. She is an avid performer of new music in solo and chamber settings, and is a long-time participant of the Yellow Barn Music Festival. Anoush is a teaching fellow through Juilliard’s Office of Community Engagement, working regularly as a teacher in K-12 public schools throughout NYC as well as in Juilliard’s Music Advancement Program.

Violinist Varty Manouelian is a member of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, as well as a Lecturer of Violin at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music. A prizewinner of several international violin competitions, Varty has concertized widely internationally, and performed with many luminaries in chamber music settings such as Kim Kashkashian, Thomas Adès, Sergei Babayan, and members of the Juilliard, Guarneri, Tokyo, Brentano, Borromeo, and Mendelssohn string quartets. In addition to music, Varty’s biggest passions are her dogs Sophie and Mia, and the joys of hiking in nature, especially with her family.

Movses Pogossian is an award-winning violinist and prizewinner of several international competitions. Harboring a special affinity for chamber and new music, he has premiered over 100 works, and has collaborated with some of the world’s greatest living composers such as György Kurtág, Tigran Mansurian, Kaja Saariaho, Gabriela Lena Frank, and many others. A committed educator and organizer, he is a Distinguished Professor of Violin at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, Founder/Advisor of the UCLA Armenian Music Program, and was the founder and artistic director of the Dilijan Chamber Music Series for 15 seasons. His multiple recordings on the New Focus, ECM, and Bridge labels have received critical acclaim.

Artur Avanesov is a composer, performer, and assistant professor of music at the American University of Armenia. Previously he was the chair of the Department of Musical Composition at the Yerevan State Conservatory where he previously studied piano and composition, and pursued postgraduate studies in composition. In 2005, he earned a Doctor of Arts degree with his research on Zen Buddhism in the music of the 20th century. Avanesov took piano master classes as a member of the Lucerne Festival Academy in Switzerland, and with Ensemble Recherche in Freiburg, Germany. He collaborated and performed with world-renowned musicians including Pierre Boulez, Krzystof Penderecki, Rohan de Saram, Kim Kashkashian, Anja Lechner, Vladimir Chernov, Tony Arnold, Tigran Mansurian, Movses Pogossian. His chamber, vocal, choral and piano compositions have been performed internationally, and recorded on major labels such as Deutsche Grammophon, Brilliant Classics, New Focus, Albany Records, etc. As a composer and performer, Avanesov contributed to the foundation of a number of Armenian and international contemporary music ensembles, and as a musicologist, his scholarship appeared in various publications.

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