Saturday, September 5, 2009

Probably the most meaningful comment after last night’s Shoghaken Ensemble concert in Yerevan was, “Tonight, I felt like an Armenian.”

In the end, Shoghaken had done what it set out to do: give the audience a taste of Armenian folklore in a non-academic style, and show that in true folklore, one must be able to sing, dance, and play a musical instrument, not sit and perform your specialty when called on. As opposed to the usual “song and applause” or “dance and applause” of basic concerts, the program was set up in musical cycles, or medleys, of wedding songs, dance songs, work songs, and others, so that a thought or mood could be set and completed without interruption. The musicians and singers “communicated” with each other on stage as they performed the music of Komitas, Toumajan, and Hayrik Mouradian, taking the audience on a journey from Moush and Sassoun to Shatakh and Van and Kharberd.

In “Angin Yars,” the musicians alternated between “Angin Yars” and “Tamzara,” weaving in parts of the Armenian mugham on duduk, kamancha, shvi, and kanon.

As the concert concluded, to the dance songs of Mayroke and Yarkhooshta, the younger set could be seen in the upper parts of the amphitheater dancing in long rows, and even more inspiring was when after the concert, in front of the hall, some of the same youth, as young as 10 years old, were singing “Hay Merik, Merik, Merik,” a song about returning to the lost lands of Moush and Sassoun.

One could be negative and tell about how stage workers refused to remove the layered wooden stage at the rear of the main stage, used by the symphony orchestra, as this temporary wooden stage definitely didn’t add to the atmosphere or looks of things, or how the Culture Minister didn’t find the time to attend a concert by the ensemble the ministry constantly requests to “uphold our honor and perform for this or that president, in this or that country (without pay),” but when the typical response by concert attendees was “I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, I didn’t want the concert to end...” not to mention what I’ll simply call quite positive comments by composer Tigran Mansuryan, anything negative that might have happened merely showed the difference between the average, patriotic Armenian and those who seem to only use their being Armenian as a business.

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