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Soul of Gomidas Shines Through a Glorious Christmas Concert at St. Vartan Cathedral

The song of farm labor and its accomplishments Song of Threshing (Gali Yerk) was sung with joyous understanding by Samuel White. Solange Merdinian offered a lilting Oror: a tender song to lull an infant to sleep.

Zevart Balikjian, with heartfelt passion, shared Baruyr Sevag’s “Unsilenceable Belfry,” a powerful poetic tribute to Gomidas which she had translated. She brought many in the audience to tears as she recited the verse:

“You are the sacred pool that purified our souls, a priest of our lyrical poems, magus of our Armenian notes: Our constantly and permanently awake belfry that will never cease to ring.”

A ‘Jazzical’ Revelation

Two of the most renowned Armenian composers, Aram Khachaturian and Alan Hovhaness, stated that the “foundation of Armenian music rests with Gomidas.” Indeed, no one has evoked the raw beauty of Armenian village life like Gomidas, whose legacy will live on for the ages.

His adaptability to all styles of music was exemplified in an amazing segment of the concert featuring acclaimed pianist, producer, and arranger Joel A. Martin.

Martin, who has collaborated with such luminaries as Broadway’s Alan Menken and the Metropolitan Opera’s Kathleen Battle, presented a pianistic evocation of Gomidas’ folk music, titled “Jazzical Gomidas: Fire of Passion.” The December 6 concert marked its world premiere.

In a nuanced performance which garnered a standing ovation, Martin seamlessly connected several Gomidas folk melodies with superb artistry and understanding. His innovative blending of traditional and jazz styles is certain to attract a wider audience to the incomparable genius of Gomidas.

One of Gomidas most soul-searing and universal songs, Homeless (Andouni), was sung by Alvard Mayilyan with raw powerful emotion. Ruthann Turekian softly sang Come Breeze (Hov Arek) — with both singers accompanied by Martin.

Awesome Power of Music

Among the concert soloists were Alyne Corrigan, Milagros Albrecht, Anoush Givelekian, Berdj Feredjian, Garabed Koroglu and Talar Minoyan.

A joyous Hoy Nazanim, accompanied by Joel Martin and the New Docta Ensemble, concluded the inspirational Christmas concert, compelling the listeners to rise in a sustained ovation for the Gomidas Choir, its talented and hard-working director Kris Kalfayan, and all the participants.

In his message, Bishop Daniel Findikyan called the concert “exuberant,” expressing his appreciation to all the who took part in the special event.

“Tonight,” he stated enthusiastically, “we have experienced an awesome power of music, stirring us at the deepest level, just as the church lifts us to our highest level. Gomidas, the unsurpassed priest, has given us the possibility to be agents of that power.”

The concert was also a time to recall the devoted founders of the choir, including Isahag Aprahamian, Dr. Ara Bohcalian, and Onnig Hepshen, all of whom were members of the Gomidas Choir in its birthplace of Istanbul.

During a splendid post-concert reception in the Haik and Alice Kavookjian Auditorium, 99-year-old Dikran Cherchian — who has sung with the Gomidas Choir for 64 years — declared that Samuel White’s rendition of Gali Yerk was “heavenly.” Cherchian noted that “it is a very difficult piece, and one that I have always loved.”

Jazz impresario Joel Martin — who is planning a world tour for his “Jazzical Gomidas” project — revealed that “the pain and joy of Gomidas’ earthiness” spoke powerfully to him as an African-American. “It tethered me to the ground, calming me, and giving me joy and the simplicity of life,” he said.

“The music of Gomidas is for everybody,” he added. “If it touched me so deeply, then it will touch someone else. It’s not just a music thing: it’s a life thing. And it’s a joy to bring it to the world.”

The Armenian Mirror-Spectator

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