Posts Tagged ‘Parsegh Ganachian’

(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee)


Death of Parsegh Ganachian
(May 24, 1967)


The best known of Gomidas Vartabed’s “five disciples” and an accomplished composer and choirmaster himself, Parsegh Ganachian is also known as the author of the arrangement for the Armenian national anthem “Mer Hayrenik.”

He was born in Rodosto (Oriental Thrace, today in Turkey) on April 17, 1885. He was the son of a shoemaker, and at the age of three, his family moved to Constantinople, where he received his primary education at the elementary school of Gedikpasha. During the massacres of 1896, the Ganachians moved to Varna, in Bulgaria, where the young Parsegh continued his studies at the local Armenian school and studied music theory, violin, and conducting with violinist Nathan Bey Amirkhanian. The family moved again in 1905, this time to Bucharest (Romania), where Ganachian continued his studies of violin and he also took upon piano studies with composer Georges Bouyouk.

After the restoration of the Ottoman Constitution in 1908, Ganachian returned to Constantinople, where he founded the first Armenian orchestra, “Knar.” His encounter with Gomidas in December 1910 and the concert of the 300-strong “Kusan” choir in early 1911 were crucial for his career. He entered Gomidas choir. The great musician selected eighteen members of the choir as his students, and the number gradually diminished to five, of which one of them was Ganachian.

The future composer was drafted by the Ottoman army in World War I and played in the military orchestra until he was exiled to Diarbekir, where he fell gravely ill. He was sent to Aleppo, and he was there when the armistice was signed in November 1918. Along with other surviving intellectuals, Ganachian gathered young people and organized concerts to the benefit of the exiles, creating a wave of enthusiasm in the audiences. At that time, he composed the “Volunteer March” (Կամաւորական քայլերգ/ Gamavoragan kaylerk), better known as “Harach, Nahadag” by the first words of its lyrics, written by poet Kevork Garvarentz. He later went to Cilicia, where he also gave concerts, and then returned to Constantinople.

In the Ottoman capital, the Gomidas students organized a group and presented concerts, created a Gomidas Fund and published Gomidas’ works in three songbooks. They also organized choirs and dealt with the education of the new generation. Ganachian composed his well known “Lullaby” (Օրոր/Oror) for soloist and choir.

The Gomidas’ students were sent to Paris to continue their musical education. Going to the French capital in 1921, Ganachian followed the courses of famous composer René Lenormand (1846-1932). Between 1922 and 1932 he toured Aleppo, Egypt, and Cyprus, forming choirs and giving choral concerts. From 1926-1930 he also taught music at the Melkonian Educational Institute. In 1932 he settled in Beirut, teaching at the College Armenien or Jemaran (later the Neshan Palandjian College). In 1933 he organized and directed the choir “Kusan,” which achieved great success in both Armenian and Lebanese circles from 1933-1946. The choir also had presentations in other Lebanese and Syrian cities, as well as in Egypt. It continued its activities until 1961.

Ganachian maintained and promoted the musical principles enunciated by Gomidas, deeply entrenched in national roots. He composed 25 choral songs and orchestral fragments, as well as around 20 songs for children. He also arranged Armenian and Arabic folk songs. Among his most important compositions are the opera “The Monk,” with Levon Shant’s play The Ancient Gods as its libretto, and the cantata “Nanor,” which depicts the pilgrimage to the monastery of St. Garabed in Moush. He also produced arrangements for the Armenian anthem, as well as the Lebanese and Syrian national anthems (1936).

Ganachian lost his sight in 1945, but his choir continued its performances. His works were partly published in Beirut and Yerevan. Among other awards, he was awarded the National Order of the Cedar (1957) by the Lebanese government for his achievements in the cultural life of Lebanon.

The composer passed away on May 24, 1967, in Beirut. The Armenian cultural association Hamazkayin established an arts institute carrying his name in Lebanon. A school also bears Ganachian’s name in Yerevan.

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Prepared by

the Armenian National Education Committee (ANEC)


This year is the 160th anniversary of the birth of composer Kristapor Kara-Murza, introducer of choral music in Armenian culture. He was born on March 2, 1853 (February 18, according to the old Julian calendar) in the town of Gharasu-Bazar, currently Bielogorsk, in the Crimea (Ukraine). He started to play piano and flute at age 8 and also took private lessonsKaraKurza from music teachers in the town. He developed his abilities to read and write music. He was just a teenager when he started to organize and offer concerts.

He moved to Tiflis, the capital of the viceroyalty of the Caucasus, in 1882, and then to Baku from 1885-1892. He was the editor of musical criticism for the daily Mshak, edited by Grigor Artzruni. Kara-Murza offered the first concert of choral music in Armenian history, with a program of patriotic songs, at the theater founded by Artzruni in Tiflis. This was a novelty, as Armenian music was fundamentally written on a one-voice basis, as opposed to European four voices (polyphony). During the next seventeen years, until his premature death at the age of 49, the composer organized some 90 choral groups in fifty cities of Armenia and outside the country, including Tiflis, Baku, Etchmiadzin, Nakhichevan-on-the-Don, Odessa, Batum, Moscow, Kars, Shushi, Constantinople, and others, and gave more than 250 concerts with the participation of 6,000 people.

        Kara-Murza’s most important achievement was the collection of Armenian religious and popular songs, and their musical arrangement and conversion into polyphonic music. In 1887 he premiered his arrangement of the Divine Liturgy in a concert in Baku. He taught music at the Kevorkian Seminary of Holy Etchmiadzin in 1892-1893, and later settled back in Tiflis, where he gave special courses to musical conductors.

        He also composed songs with lyrics by Armenian poets, as well as music a cappella, and also arranged operatic melodies. He presented in Baku fragments of Faust, the famous opera of French composer Charles Gounod (1818-1893), in Armenian translation. Kara-Murza arranged 300 choral and popular songs, among them such classics as “Dzidzernag,” “Zinch oo zinch,” “Kezi mernim,” “Khorodig,” “Lepho lele.”  He also composed and transcribed popular dances, and became the precursor to the modern song and dance ensembles.

        In recent years, Kara-Murza has been credited with the composition of the music of the song “Mer Hairenik,” with lyrics by Mikael Nalbandian (1829-1866), which he premiered in Tiflis, in 1885. His music was the basis for the arrangement by Parsegh Ganachian (1885-1967), one of Gomidas’ disciples, which is performed today as the Armenian national anthem.

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