Yerevan Chamber Choir

Music of Komitas Vartabed

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The Armenian composer Komitas Vartabed was born in 1869. Orphaned at age 11, Komitas grew up in a monastery where he was recognized by the patriarchs for exceptional skills as a singer. In 1893, Komitas made the plunge into the priesthood of the Armenian Church and was quickly promoted in the sacerdotal ranks to the learned level of Vartabed. A few years later the talented holy man journeyed to Berlin in order to pursue his musical education. In 1899, and in his characteristically ambitious and gifted manner, the 30-year-old Komitas earned his Doctorate in Musicology from the Frederick Wilhelm Imperial University.

Among Komitas Vartabed's many musical accomplishments are his collections of Armenian folk songs and his subsequent development of a Badarak (Divine Liturgy) from these folk songs. The Armenian composer took on the task of configuring a new Badarak based upon the people's music because he believed the accepted Badarak of the time had been debased by its reliance on non-traditional secular musics. On Music of Komitas Vartabed it is not Komitas' Badarak that one hears, but rather it is his choral and orchestral adaptations of folk songs that are presented. The 26-member Yerevan Chamber Choir, under the direction of maestro Harutyun Topikyan, performs a bounty of the Armenian composer's tunes -- including "Harvest Song," "Threshing Song," and "Lullaby" -- with elegance, bravado, and gusto.

Unfortunately, on the 24th of April 1915 -- the same day that marked the onslaught of the Armenian Genocide -- Komitas Vartabed was one of several hundred members of the Armenian intelligentsia who were incarcerated in Constantinople. Though he survived the lengthy imprisonment, he returned to find his manuscripts in shambles and, worse, the Armenian people trying to deal with the fallout from their tremendous tragedy. This distress led to his inability to work effectively and eventually brought about his death. Thanks in great measure to the work of Armenians who are dedicated to reviving his work, Komitas Vartabed lives on once again through his music.

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