Sunday, October 07, 2007

Catholicos Visit, Part III

Today was the Hrashapar Badarak today, conducted by His Holiness. Although it was really nice that Vehapar came and was celebrating, I think that the most impressive thing was just bringing all these Armenians together under one roof, in the same building, as one church. Only His Holiness has that kind of influence to get all these people in church on this day.

I also really treasured singing in the choir. GUESS WHO HAD A SOLO???? ME!!! It was one of the two measure amens after Miayn Soorp. I had the "amen" after His Holiness said "Orhnayl Vortit Soorp, Adzvadz jushmarid". I just found out yesterday; it was kind of a last minute thing. I was so honored to have a solo, even a tiny one, during this service. Even if I didn't have a solo, though, I was just so excited to be able to do this. Ever since I found out that Vehapar was coming, I hoped I would be able to sing in the choir for this service.

Working with Maestro Mekanejian was truly an honor and a privilege. I learned so much from working with him, and it was amazing to see such faith in action. This man has so much love not only for the music, but for his church. It was so beautiful. Here is a brief article about Maestro Mekanejian. Truly, if you sing in an Armenian church choir and get the opportunity to take a workshop from him, or work with him in any capacity, you should run and jump on that opportunity.

Here is the best picture from all my pictures of Friday and today. It gives you a brief glimpse of the grandness of Holy Trinity in Cambridge. It doesn't do it justice. It is a beautiful church.

This picture is an okay one, a close-up. I was having trouble getting a good one all zoomed in. The man on the left is Very Rev. Fr. Simeon Odabashian. I don't know who the other one is.

Vehapar's message was about the importance of the Armenian family. With all that Armenians have been through during their history, the family unit has really been the place where Armenian culture and religion was nurtured and preserved. The Armenian view of the family unit is that the father and mother are king and queen of their household, and the children are their subjects over which they rule with paternal/maternal love as the guiding force. Vehapar said that in the kingdom of the family, there are no weapons and no violence. Unfortunately, that isn't the case in all families, but it certainly is the ideal that we should all be striving for. Vehapar said that we need to practice our faith on a daily basis, and this reminds me of something that my mother said my grandmother used to say: "You shouldn't have to tell people that you are Christian. They should know from your actions."

Catholicos Visit, Part II

On Friday night, we went to the young professionals' event with the Catholicos, or, as I have now learned we call him in Armenian, Vehapar Der. All the information about this event gave very strong warnings that you needed to be on the guest list, they were going to check IDs, and if you weren't on the list, you couldn't get in. When we got there, the man with the list didn't even check. He just waved me on through. When he saw my naturally-blond odar* husband, though, he stopped him and said, "Who are you??" I had to go back and say no, we were both on the list! We got a good chuckle out of that. It was a pretty brunette crowd there!

The program was really nice; I got to trot out Mer Hayrenik for the crowd singalong at the beginning, which I learned during my time crashing the youth choir at my old church. There are still so many times when I don't know ANYTHING about what is going on, so it was great to feel a little smug like, "hey! I actually know something now!" One of the big highlights of the evening was the Sayat Nova dance company , who were just terrific. I hadn't seen them dance before. Then the Catholicos stood up and said a few words about how happy he was to see that Armenian culture was still being carried on and flourishing here in the diaspora. I think you probably only see this in places like LA, Boston, maybe Detroit, where there is a large Armenian population. Since I grew up in a place with not that many Armenians, I didn't have the opportunity to go to Armenian School (the community did try to put one together when I was really little, but it wasn't really a success), or have my mom force me to take Armenian dance lessons. I think that the Internet is great for Armenians across the Diaspora, because at least now, even if you are in a small community, you can still learn and be exposed to some aspects of the language and culture.

A comment on a previous post suggested that I add pictures, and I now have some! Most of them are pretty awful, though. Our camera has never been the same since it fell off a rock during my husband's hiking trip this summer. Here are two pictures from the Young Professionals' event on Friday night. The first one is before the ceremony, and the second one was taken afterwards.

Vehapar is the one in the purple hat. Just in case you couldn't figure that out.

More on today's Hrashapar service in the next post.

* non-Armenian

Friday, October 05, 2007

Catholicos Visit, Part I

The Catholicos, His Holiness Karekin II, is going to be in town this weekend. There are a number of events for different age groups, culminating in His Holiness celebrating badarak on Sunday.

I will be singing in the choir on Sunday; I am very excited and honored to have this opportunity. I would not enjoy the Armenian Church nearly as much as I do if I was not able to participate in the choir on Sundays. It makes me feel more involved in the service. In order to participate on this particular Sunday, I have to attend 2 rehearsals that are 4 hours long each. For the Catholicos visits, Maestro Khoren Mekanejian is conducting the choirs for every stop on His Holiness's tour through the Eastern Diocese. We had our first rehearsal last weekend, and we have another one this Saturday.

I feel really lucky to be able to work with Maestro Mekanejian, even for this brief amount of time. I have never had a proper "rehearsal" of the music for the services. The churches that I have attended didn't have rehearsals, since you do basically the same thing every Sunday. I just had to pick it up as we went along. I am not sure that I would have been able to do this successfully if I did not read music. So although the choir directors at the churches that I have attended have often been top-notch, it is hard to benefit from their knowledge without much rehearsal time. Maestro Mekanejian really worked hard with us to get everything just right- getting the pronunciation right (some folks here speak Armenian with a local accent!!), getting the phrasing right, getting the volume and beats right. It was very educational.

Sadly, there isn't a big turnout for the choir, I think because there are 8 hours of mandatory rehearsals. This is tough for people to make, but I wish more people had made the effort. There are about 20 people who are going to sing in the choir, almost all women. There are only a few men.

Why don't more men sing in the choir? I assume that this is because they all want to be deacons; the men in the choirs at the churches I have been to are all older gentleman who are past their deaconing days. At my old church, all the deacons were under the age of 30 (many many high school boys, which is so nice to see), and there are a LOT of them, so there was some talk about having them alternate being on the altar and singing in the choir, so they would learn the tenor or bass parts to the choir music, and we could have some extra men. This sounds like a great idea to me. I would love to see more men and boys get involved in the choir.

Tonight is the Young Professionals event with the Catholicos; my husband and I are going to this one. The events for the children and teenagers are tomorrow during the day, and tomorrow night is the big banquet. We are skipping the banquet because tickets are $150 a person and the YP event is free (yay!). Then there's service on Sunday. I will try to take pictures tonight, and have my husband take pictures on Sunday (if possible).