BY MARINE MARGARYAN
For over thirty years the ”Little Singers of Armenia,” founded by Maestro Tigran Hekekyan, has been an internationally acclaimed choir that has captured hearts across the world. Today we celebrate alongside them as we revisit a long list of their accomplishments and a heartwarming story of dedication and love through unparalleled challenges.
“These children sing so flawlessly that they infuriate even the God,” Cosmos Galilaes, Artistic Director and Conductor Thessaloniki State Symphony Orchestra, 1996, is quoted as saying in the 2023 1st quarterly issue of “International Choral Magazine.”
“What Tigran Hekekyan presents here on the stage is impossible to achieve on earth, such a performance is only possible in the Heavens.” Gido Kokars, Professor at the Latvian Academy of Music, Founder and Conductor of the Ave Sol Choir, Latvia, 2016, told ICM.
Barely three years after the ensemble’s inception, in 1995 during the post-Soviet era, while conditions were unraveling in Armenia, the choir embarked on an important and challenging fifty-day concert tour. During the tour, it performed in Poland, Belgium, Germany, France, Switzerland, the International Choral Festival in Basel, and in 20 states across the United States. It was invited to perform for UNESCO’s 50th anniversary and the 50th anniversary of the United Nations Charter. Before riching its third year the “Little Singers of Armenia” had already won two gold and one silver medal, as well as, Grand Prix during the Golden Gate International Choral Festival in San Francisco.
Even from the beginning, Little Singers of Armenia was received with resounding praise and admiration. This reputation, the heart of its legacy, would be upheld throughout its decades of performing and on renowned stages across the world, including: the Tokyo Opera-City Concert Hall, the Victoria Hall in Geneva, the Konserthuset in Stockholm, the Berlin Philharmoniker Concert Hall, Opera Garnier in Paris, and more.
“There is no chorus in Israel with such a quality. Perhaps nowhere in the world. Such professionalism, love towards art and music that is conveyed from the performer to the audience. You are world-class musicians and it is a great honor for us to have the opportunity to listen to you. We are grateful,” said Rita Vinokur, Head Rehovot Conservatory of Music Chair, Cultural Department, Rehovot, 2017, in a statement to ICM.
“It was fantastic. I have attended many concerts, but I have never listened such a flawless music, perfect execution, and illuminating voices… let me say, that in Heaven it can’t be better,” Rev. Thomas Roedder Saint Moritz, Switzerland, 2016, told ICM.
“All the choir conductors, who were present at your concerts, conveyed to us that they have never heard a choir with such quality and perhaps never will in the future. This was like a miracle which took place in their life,” Ieva Krivickaite, Director Ugnele Children’s Choir, 2019, said to ICM.
“I always say to my singers that we should always strive for excellence but not perfection, because perfection does not exist. But today, having listened to the “Little Singers of Armenia” I realized that perfection sometimes exists,” André Ducret, Founder and Conductor of the Saint Michel Choir Fribourg, Switzerland, 2016, told ICM.
“Amazing choir. I hardly come across with such a choirs. You are not only singers but also high quality artists. It is no wonder know that you are called the ambassadors of Armenian music,” Soulyus Lausa, Conductor, Director National Cultural Center of Lithuania, 2019, is quoted as saying in the first quarterly 2023 issue of ICM.
In 2001, the choir would be recognized as an important ambassador by the European Federation of Choirs of the Union which granted the choir the honorary title of “The Cultural Ambassadors of Europe.” But perhaps, the greatest achievement for Maestro Tigran Hekekyan, might have come in 2002 when the International Federation for Choir Music invited the ”Little Singers of Armenia” to participate in the Sixth World Symposium in Minneapolis. It was one of only twenty best choirs, from around the world, invited to perform.
The ”Little Singers of Armenia” became widely recognized for its colorful repertoire including ancient music from the 5th century Armenian spiritual chants and hymns to the complicated 21st century works, medieval works, western classical music, popular songs from around the world and jazz. In a short time, the children’s choir had reached a remarkably high level of artistry and professionalism- easily keeping pace with well-established professional choruses.
As a result, the choir became a highly sought-after ensemble for many contemporary composers. This led to many new pieces which would forever alter the musical landscape for choral music. These newly written works would stretch boundaries for choruses and generate new possibilities for composers – often raising the bar too high for the other choruses around the world. Even under these extreme musical settings, ”Little Singers of Armenia,” would perform these demanding pieces with ease and clarity. With emotion, that was uniquely its own, genuinely manifested by very every member on stage, creating a unified and sublime sound.
“The choir sings very soulfully and emotionally. The pronunciation is very beautiful, the sound is wonderful. While singing, everyone’s eyes tell a little story,” Gunther Berger, Director Dresden Philharmonic Choir, 2019, told ICM.
“This choir is one of the greatest choir’s in the world. The ‘Little Singer of Armenia’ stands out for the love, warmth, enthusiasm and joy towards each other. Thus, why they are so exceptional. The conductor is wonderful. He is capable of creating a musical dialogue between the audience and singers. He is one of the five best conductors I know,” Bo Johansson Artistic Director and Conductor of “Adolf Frederik” Girls Choir Stockholm, Sweden, 2012, told ICM.
“I am aware of the high quality of this choir. But I cannot imagine how they manage to constantly strive to even higher quality. This choir, simply, is just perfect,” Michel Hostettler, Composer, Conductor Vevey, Switzerland, 2016, is quoted as saying to ICM.
Today, the choir is one of the best in the world due to its special leadership under Maestro Hekekyan. As a result, he has become a sought-after pedagogue whose methods for engaging youth and leading choruses have been spreading rapidly across the international musical community. His leadership, through constant cultural changes and varying interests of support for classical music, demonstrates what is possible when one’s work is fortified with love and also a relentless amount of commitment.
While Tigran is often credited for his professional approach, his work with the choir is multi-dimensional and holistic. He describes it as: The ”Little Singers of Armenia,” is first and foremost a state of mind, a collective unity, an assembly of people of the same worldview. A family, in the real and traditional sense of the word, where there are clear demarcated human and moral standards. Here, every member of the family works together. The older tries to help and mentor the younger, the young taking example from the older. It is a like microcosmic world, where there is hierarchy, discipline, law and order, all delineated by the members of the choir. However, in contrast to the world, where things are resolved by force, where connections and channels of influence provide underserving leverages, and where competition blurs standards and morals, the choir works honestly and harmoniously. Here, choices are made only after skills have been evaluated. When children join, their only true responsibility is to grow into educated and valued citizens in our community and world. They learn to stand shoulder-to-shoulder, not only during performances but in all life situations. In the ”Little Singers of Armenia,” the children learn about love, living fully, appreciating nature, and the history of their homeland.
My most cherished moments are during concerts, seeing the children’s sparkling eyes emanating under the sounds of Bach, Faure, and Komitas. I watch every one of their movements as they stand together on the stage. It is important to me because I see their love. Their love for each other and their love for the planet. I feel their venerability. I am humbled by their modesty. I feel their veneration, and love for their homeland, Armenia, which shows that they will continue to honor our age-old musical heritage which has lasted since the third millennium BCE.
If you long to visit your childhood, connect to your most sincere aspirations, or want to rediscover lost emotions or deeply seated memories, you will find it with ”Little Singers of Armenia.” You will experience a deep amount of love flowing through it and around it. You will be mystified by the children and the music. You will be absorbed and it will mean everything to you and it does me.
“This choir is a congenial world, woven by the multicolor threads of aspirations and dreams, very different from gloomy reality,” soprano Sveta Barsegyan, 15, of “Little Singers of Armenia” told ICM.
The choir is a plant where the most precious and warm memories of my childhood are ingrained. The choir is a school of life where I was taught to love and appreciate, to struggle and never despair, be fair and just like music itself.” Lilit Ginosyan Former member of “Little Singers of Armenia”
Today, after thirty years, the choir thrives due to its devoted conductor and founder Maestro Tigran Hekekyan. We celebrate with him full-heartedly. What once started as a dream has now transformed generations of children and inspired listeners across the world. The boundless love within this choir, and around it, rings everywhere with goodwill for all people for all time’s sake. It is a solid stepping stone for the advent of new and numerous musical ambassadors, and a powerful model for peace around the globe.
“. . . You have an enormous power to change the reality. It is a school for me personally and for all the people who heard you tonight, for people who need what you do, in order to change the reality.” George Emmanuel Lazaridis Renowned Pianist; Compose, Artistic Director, Thessaloniki Concert Hall Organization, 2015, told ICM.
Congratulation on your 30 years, Little Singers of Armenia!
Marine Margaryan is a pianist and pedagogue based in Armenia.