Tuesday, December 22, 2009

It happens that composer, ethnomusicologist, and teacher Grikor Mirzaian Suni (born in Getabek, near Gandzak), was also a strong nationalist and political activist, spending much time in Western Armenia after the Young Turks had seized power. In 1908, a disguised Suni escaped from Batumi (the Russian Czars were seizing Armenian churches, etc.) to Turkey on a Laz raft, after which he arranged concerts for Armenians in Trabizon, Kirason, and Samson. In Samson, he tried to organize a break-in at the armory, after which he planned to distribute 2,000 rifles and millions of bullets to the peasantry. The Dashnaks, at that time loyal to the Young Turks, refused, labeling Suni a traitor, this in spite of the fact that Suni had been a member of the Dashnak party while living in the Caucasus.

When World War I broke out, Suni, who was living in Erzurum and teaching at the Sanasarian school, was awakened in the middle of the night and told to leave to the Russian side of the border, as officials knew of the impending dangers for Armenians. His popular composition “Erzurum March” was the likely reason for the goodwill leading to his escape from Turkey.

I learned this by reading and hearing about Suni from his great-granddaughters and other family members, now in Yerevan and spending time at our home taking vocal and oud lessons from Hasmik for an upcoming concert of Suni’s works at the Hovhannes Tumanyan home-museum.

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