Armenian Conductor Leads Ankara Choir In Performing Gomidas Score

ANKARA (Combined Sources)–The Ankara Radio Polyphonic Choir has performed a composition by the famous Armenian composer and ethnomusicologist, Gomidas Vartabed, the Turkish Hurriyet reported on Thursday.

The piece, “Gali Yerg” (Harvest Wind), was performed in Armenian under the direction of Istanbul-based Armenian conductor Hagop Mamigonyan. The choir will sing it again at an Armenian church in Istanbul

Gomidas Vartabed (Soghomon Soghomonian) was an Armenian priest, composer, ethnomusicologist and luminary of the Ottoman Empire and is considered to be the founder of Armenian modern classical music.

Born in 1869 in Kutahya, he endured the Armenian Genocide and was arrested on April 24, 1915 along with 100s of other leaders of the Armenian community. Gomidas was the first non-European to be admitted to the International Music Society and traveled through Europe and the Middle East giving lectures and performances to raise awareness of Armenian music. Gomidas Vartabed died in Paris France in 1935 in a psychiatric hospital and his ashes were sent to Yerevan, where street names and statues of him preserve his memory.

The choir, affiliated with the state-owned Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT), performed the work as part of a larger 40th anniversary celebration for TRT in which 40 Turkish and foreign conductors were invited to lead the choir in separate concerts, performing songs of their choosing.

“When I told them on the phone that I wanted to perform an Armenian work, there was silence for a few seconds on the other end of the line, but my request was accepted,” Mamigonyan was quoted by Hurriyet as saying.

The youngest of the 40 composers, Mamigonyan is the chief conductor of the 40-person polyphonic Surp Lusavoric Armenian Choir in Istanbul, which has been performing in Istanbul for 80 years.

Recordings of the concert will be available in the coming months. In another historic first, the Ankara Radio Polyphonic Choir will also perform the same composition in the Holy Trinity Armenian Church in Istanbul’s Beyoglu district.

Mamigonyan said he had doubts until he started working with the choir and was worried that the TRT administration would retreat at the last minute. But he was eventually allowed to perform the piece, achieving a first in modern Turkish history.

In previous years, performing Armenian songs had been banned on TRT television channels and radio stations, despite the rich contributions to Turkish music made by Armenians over the centuries.

“Unfortunately, many of the traditions and accomplishments by Armenians and other ethnic groups in the Ottoman Empire have been trivialized or obfuscated from collective Turkish historical memory,” Antranig Kzirian, a noted musician and oud composer told Asbarez on Friday.

Kzirian explained this phenomenon as part of a “parallel process” perpetuated both by Turkey’s “reluctance to acknowledge that non-Turkish cultures contributed greatly to Anatolian culture; and externally,” as well as by “the diasporan-Armenian community’s taboo
in discussing issues related to the Armenian Genocide.”

“It remains regrettable that, within an artistic and cultural framework, Armenian losses in the Genocide also indirectly resulted in the collective amnesia of Armenian composers living during the Ottoman Empire,” he added. “This incalculable cultural cost has presented a
sadly incomplete tapestry of the rich mosaic and diversity of Armenian artistic expression.”

Composers and luminaries of the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries such as Baba Hampartsoum Limondjian, Udi Hrant Kenkulian and Kemani Tatyos Ekserciyan and several other Armenian composers contributed greatly to the Armenian nation’s achievements, Kzirian said.

“Limondjian’s creation of a notation system for classical music, for example, was used in the Ottoman Empire for hundreds of years and it remains in use today in the Armenian Apostolic Church,” he added.

Kzirian said he hoped that Armenian communities can “rediscover parts of our great cultural and musical tradition.” But this would only be possible, he noted, through acknowledgement and a growing openness of the historical reality of the Armenian Genocide in Turkey and abroad.

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7 Comments

  1. Frank said:

    I hope someone will tell the Turks that Gomidas was placed in a mental institution because of what the Turks did to the Armenians
    He couldnt bare the pain and all the things he saw

  2. Frank said:

    What are you talking about.
    Man
    Armenians were in line to get their heads chopped
    Who wouldt loose their minds

  3. Nairian said:

    We know it already. What else is new? Turks stole our musics, songs, they have benefited from our architectures, builders, engineers, our eloquent speakers within their turkish essembly; such as Krikor Zohrab, then they annihilated him and practically our whole race. Until today the turks are stealing our songs, for instance our “Zartir Lao” song was stolen by the turks only several months ago when they stole the music and the words and replaced them with turkish words. Since the Genocide, they demolished our sacred buildings, Churches, Monasteries and replaced them as animal shelters or left them completely unattended. In 95 years, they saw to it that the word Armenian was never mentioned anywhere in Turkey. The same way the Azeris have been doing and are still doing it within the past 100 years when they demolished 3,000 Khachkars on broad daylight just a couple of years ago. What did Armenia do, nothing unfortunately. It’s a shame but the cultural Genocide is still ongoing both in Turkey and Azerbaijan as well as Turkey’s denial of the Armenian Genocide, which is considered the last phase of the Genocide.

  4. manooshag said:

    Hye, since this is a turkish media release…. the resounding silence is to be expected.
    Gomidas Vartabed was included in the initial gathering of Armenians on April 24, 1915
    – was released through great efforts (all others were slaughtered) . His tramatic treatment,
    and he being an Armenian cleric, shall have suffered God alone knows what at the hands of
    Turks. Sadly, his remaining years were never to be what this great man was…. Manooshag

  5. Pingback: Armenian Conductor Leads Ankara Choir In Performing Gomidas Score … | azerbaijantoday

  6. Hovsep Melkonian said:

    I was delighted to see ( and hear) that the efforts of a single individual, namely Choir Director Hagop Mamigonyan in Istanbul, helped to break another important taboo in Turkey and gave the Turkish audiences the opportunity to hear for the first time on state sponsored radio/TV stations the mesmerising music of Gomidas Vartabet. I heard the program on the internet and my eyes filled with tears. It was beautifully performed and I could not believe that people from a different nationality and ethnicity could render the deep emotions of an Armenian song so masterfully. My kudos therefore to Choir Director Mamigonyan and the artists he led.

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