April 30, 2004
Song Solidarity: American youth choir finds new friends in unknown Armenia
By Gayane Abrahamyan
ArmeniaNow arts reporter
`Song of Unity’, a week-long choir festival and the first to unite
American and Armenian youth, concluded April 24.
Directors from Armenia and America were impressed.
A secondary school choir from Lexington, Massachusetts was guests
participants with choirs from the Mother See St. Echmiadzin, the
Armenian General Benevolent Union’s House of Armenians in Nork, Guymri
Art School and Little Singers of Armenia.
The choral week was carried out by Yerevan Municipality and Little
Singers of Armenia children’s philharmonic society.
`The idea was born when the Lexington choir expressed a wish to visit
Armenia, so by using this small opportunity I decided to activate a
little bit the choral life of Armenia,’ said maestro Tigran Hekekyan.
The festival took place in Yerevan, Ashtarak and Gyumri and the days
were full of concerts and parties, joining hundreds of children.
`We didn’t know where we were coming, many of the parents were against
this journey but today I simply don’t want to return. People are so
kind here, hospitable and open-hearted,’ says Katya Dreyer-Oren, a
member of the Lexington choir.
The Lexington choir brought 30 of its choir’s 150 members. Some,
according to conductor Brian O’Connell, stayed at home after hearing
about political turmoil in Armenia.
`But we’re here and we can say for sure that there isn’t a more calm
and beautiful country in the world,’ O’Connell said.
Youngsters from overseas who had not even heard about Armenia, were
warmly singing Armenian spirituals such as `Surb-surb’ and `Hayr Mer’.
The concerts took place in concert halls and in old Armenian churches.
`The divine voices of Armenian Little Singers’ choir echoing in the
ancient church will always be in my head,’ O’Connell said. `They were
singing wonderfully and suddenly I was touched and didn’t feel how
tears started falling from my eyes.’
Besides the cultural mission, the Lexington choir arrived in Armenia
for also charity purposes, bringing stationery, clothes, musical
instruments and other gifts, the majority of which were given to
Gyumri’s Huis (Hope) orphanage.
`I’ll never forget the sad eyes of the orphans, the same way as I
won’t forget our journey, Armenia’s unique nature and the warm and
dear friends,’ says 17 year old Ryan Moore.
The festival concluded with performances at the Genocide Memorial
The last performance of the choir festival took place April 23 at the
Genocide Memorial in Yerevan.
That was supposed to be the last joint event, however in the evening
the youngsters made an unexpected decision. On the night of April 24
at 2 AM before going to the airport they visited Tsitsernakaberd once
‘We haven’t heard about the Genocide and the sorrow was so great that
before leaving we wanted to pay homage to the victims of that evil
once again,’ Ryan Moore said.
Under the night sky full of stars the group of singers was walking up
towards the memorial, the candles in their hands were flashing in the
dark like lighthouses. They sang again near the eternal fire and the
echoes of their songs spread on the sleeping town.
`I was astonished how foreign children could perceive so deeply our
tragedy. They were standing still and quiet before the fire for about
half an hour,’ says the artistic director of Little Singers of Armenia
choir Tigran Hekekyan.