Thursday, May 13, 2010

Yesterday evening we had the fortune of attending a concert at the Art Gallery, presented by pianist and People’s Artist Svetlana Navasartyan. The crowd was awed, as is always the case, as Navasartyan’s expertise is beyond description. Presented were works by Mozart, Chopin, and Bach. At the end, standing ovations brought on two encores and seemingly endless bouquets of flowers, given by the Prime Minister and First Lady amongst others.

Interesting were the comments of a political activist friend during breaks in the concert:

“Heritage was supposed to have their yearly convention, but delayed it for the second or third time. And the Dashnaks...they’ve lost all respect here, and are starting to lose respect in the Diaspora. They were supposedly getting tough when they demanded Edward Nalbandyan’s resignation, for signing the Protocols. They didn’t have the nerve to demand the President’s resignation, but after all, they drank from the same cup for years, and don’t want to disturb anything, so they demanded Nalbandyan’s resignation instead. I’m surprised they didn’t demand Nalbandyan’s driver’s resignation too...

“I’ve joined the Armenian National Congress. They’re our only hope. I know Levon has made mistakes, but we need him now, to clean out the crew in charge, before it’s too late.”

To my question as to how Levon proposed taking power, he replied, “You mean how can we take power. And, the time is close, closer than people think!”

After the concert, and after running through a heavy rainstorm and flooded streets, we sat at a friend’s house, drinking tea and drying off. Someone involved in one of Yerevan’s leading choirs was also there, and talked about a recent trip to Europe:

“The day we got there, we were treated to something quite enjoyable, and depressing, in a way I’ll tell now. Several locals, dressed in traditional costume, began singing and dancing their folk music. They were excellent. And they weren’t professional musicians...they were doctors, teachers, electricians. I and the others were depressed because we know how far basic Armenians have gone from their folk music, and how hard it would be in Armenia to find people to do what these Europeans were doing.

“They were singing their folk music, and doing it well. What do we hear in Armenia? Our real folk singers are hidden, barely seen. We are presented rabiz and pop. See this cigarette box? It says ‘smoking is harmful to your health.’ They should do the same with our pop singers, and write, ‘Azerbaijani music presented in Armenian words.’

“But the situation in Armenia is nothing new. Look at how Komitas was treated. First of all, he didn’t lose his mind after 1915. He just went silent. He wrote several excellent songs. Does someone crazy do this? There wasn’t even a diagnosis, but they still say he was crazy. They had been trying for years to keep him silent.

“Who was trying? For one, the Armenian Church leaders of the time. Once, the famous Mantashov gave Komitas a piano. One day the piano was gone, and when Komitas asked where it was, church people said it was property of the Armenian Church, that it was in a basement, and would stay there.

“Another time, when Komitas was preparing to have a concert in Etchmiadzin, an order came from the Catholicos stating ‘If you go through with this concert, you will be cursed by the Church.’ After further attempts to stop the concert, it finally took place.

“Now we know why Komitas wrote the letters he did, stating for one thing how he needed to leave Etchmiadzin to save his sanity.”

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