By Arpy Voskeridjian Minasian
CHELTENHAM, Pa.—On Sun., April 24, hundreds gathered at Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church in Cheltenham to commemorate the Armenian Genocide. The program sponsored by the Armenian Inter-Communal Committee of Philadelphia celebrated the theme “Together for Armenia” and featured world renowned pianist Şahan Arzruni.
Arzruni captivated the audience with his beautiful selection of pieces by Kristapor Kara-Mourza, Komitas, Aram Khatchadourian, Arno Babadjanian, and Alan Hovhannes. Spectators traveled with Arzruni through a recent history of Armenian composers and their works. As his fingers brushed the keys they meditated on times gone by, and the saga of the Armenian people. Before playing selections from each of the famous composers, Arzruni shared anecdotes about their lives allowing the journey to feel complete. Each composer’s musical genius permeated the room as Arzruni revived their compositions. “Shoror of Moush” by Komitas captured the essence of Armenian folk music allowing the audience to revel in the daily life of the Armenian villager. All were mesmerized by Arno Babadjanian’s Elegy (after Sayat Nova) and were delighted by the “Potpourri on Armenian Songs” by Kristapor Kara-Mourza. “Yenovk” by Alan Hovhaness was equally entertaining and enchanting. It was however with Arzruni’s finale of Aram Khatchaturian’s “Toccata” that the fortitude and resilience of the Armenian people was symbolized. Each stroke of the keys, each chord that was played echoed the struggle and survival of the Armenian people.
Arzruni is not only revered as a recitalist and chamber music partner but, he has also received recognition and acclaim as a composer, ethnomusicologist, teacher, lecturer, writer, broadcast personality, and impressionist. He has appeared on numerous broadcasts with Johnny Carson, Mike Douglas and has performed as well with Victor Borge. In 1996, he received an encyclical and Sts. Sahag and Mesrob medallion from His Holiness Karekin I. This year, he was awarded the Movses Khorenatsi Presidential Medal for promoting cultural ties between Armenia and the Diaspora. The Philadelphia Armenian community was truly honored to have Mr. Arzruni share in the commemoration of the 101st anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.
A small part of the program was dedicated to the youth of our community. The audience was thrilled to enjoy a vocal performance by the students of the Armenian Sisters Academy (Radnor, Pa.). Guided by the principal Sr. Emma Moussayan, their Armenian teacher Mrs. Tamar Panosian, and under the direction of their music teacher Karinné Andonian, the students delighted spectators with “Dzidzernagin Pouynuh” by Gh. Aghayian and Parsegh Ganachian and “Soorperoo Atchker” by Martin Aharonyan. Hearing the beautiful voices of the students of the Armenian Sisters Academy singing Armenian songs was a wonderful reminder that the Philadelphia community is fortunate to have such an incredible institution in their midst. The students are reminders that our history is our foundation, and that our culture and language keeps us unified. The Armenian Sisters Academy stands as a beacon, developing mind, body and spirit of generations of Armenian youth. And, as it forges ahead vigorously, it cultivates the next generation of leaders for the Armenian nation.
The Philadelphia Armenian community celebrates a unique attribute. The Inter-Communal Committee consists of representatives from the five area churches, their clergy and the Armenian Sisters Academy. Throughout the year this committee plans three events for the Philadelphia area that bring the entire community together to celebrate Cultural Month and Vartanantz and to commemorate the Armenian Genocide. When the entire community is encouraged to unify their efforts wonderful things are accomplished. “Together for Armenia” featuring Şahan Arzruni is an example of such an occasion. In appreciation of Mr. Arzruni’s performance the committee will make a donation to the Vanadzor Old Age Home in Armenia. This home is sponsored by the Arzruni family, providing care to over 40 individuals. The Armenian Inter-Communal Committee was honored to host this superb event and was thrilled to showcase Şahan Arzruni’s phenomenal talents. The audience truly enjoyed a wonderful program and the committee thanks Mr. Arzruni for his riveting performance, reminding all those present about the musical giants the Armenian people have produced. Indeed, on Sunday, April 24th music soothed the soul of the Philadelphia Armenian Community.
Arpy Voskeridjian Minasian is vice-chair of the Armenian Inter-Communal Committee of Philadelphia.
Source: Armenian Weekly Mid-Atlantic