On December 3, 2011, the AGBU New York Special Events Committee (NYSEC), under the auspices of the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Armenia to the United Nations, hosted its fourth annual AGBU Performing Artists in Concert, which showcased the talents of yet another group of outstanding young Armenian musicians. The sold-out event was held at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall in midtown Manhattan.
Supporting students in the performing arts has always been a priority for AGBU. Besides sharing the many talents of the gifted artists who have benefitted from the organization’s scholarship assistance toward their musical aspirations, this year’s event also honored the 150th anniversary of the birth of the famous Norwegian Arctic explorer, scientist, Nobel laureate, diplomat, humanitarian, and friend to the Armenian people, Fridtjof Nansen (1861-1930).
In addition to his many other notable achievements as the League of Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees, Nansen played a significant role in providing humanitarian relief for Armenian refugees in the 1920’s. He drew up a political, industrial, and financial plan for creating a national home for the Armenians in Yerevan. Through the Nansen International Office for Refugees, these repatriation efforts later helped settle some 10,000 Armenian refugees in Yerevan, and an additional 40,000 in Syria and Lebanon. Historians believe that the modern state of Armenia owes its legal existence to arrangements supported by Nansen that were made following the First World War.
On this special occasion, nine performers, under the artistic direction of pianist Kariné Poghosyan, collaborated to prepare a distinguished repertoire of music, celebrating Armenian, Norwegian and other composers, including Arno Babajanian, Johann Sebastian Bach, Francois Borne, Edvard Grieg, Aram Khachaturian and Komitas Vardapet. The celebration of music saluted the impressive artistic achievements of the various performers in their respective fields, and featured performances by a string quartet, a piano duo from France, a classical saxophonist from Germany, as well as an emerging 14-year-old harpist. The musicians were all recipients of AGBU scholarships, which have allowed them to be educated at some of the world’s most well-respected and prestigious conservatories and universities, including the Manhattan School of Music and the world-renowned Juilliard School in New York.
Thanks to AGBU’s close circle of friends and the Armenian community at large, last year’s benefit performance allowed NYSEC to provide scholarship support to several students, some of whom were featured at the recent 2011 concert. AGBU is proud to help some of the best future musicians in the world reach their goals and showcase them through this annual concert. AGBU also appreciates the generosity of the evening’s donors who believe in supporting the performing arts, recognizing the talents of young Armenian artists, and helping in their advancement. Major benefactors included Dr. Paul Khoury and author Margaret Ajemian Ahnert. The 2011 benefit concert raised over $60,000 for the AGBU Performing Arts Fellowship Program.
The event was organized by the AGBU NYSEC Committee, chaired by Nila Festekjian and Sossy Setrakian. Members include Anita Anserian, Carol Aslanian, Betty Cherkezian, Melissa Demirjian, Maral Hajjar, Hilda Hartounian, Maral Jebejian, Vesna Markarian, Jennifer Oughourlian, and Vera Setrakian. Performing Artists in Concert contributors included graphic designer Alex Basmagian and coordinator Natalie Gabrelian of the AGBU Central Office.
The concert was attended by AGBU President Berge Setrakian and his wife Vera, as well as Ambassador Garen Nazarian, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Armenia to the United Nations, and his wife, Siranoush. Guests also included members of the AGBU Central Board of Directors and several UN dignitaries. “We are truly grateful to AGBU, its leadership, members and supporters for their continued commitment to preserving and promoting the Armenian identity and heritage through rich educational and cultural programs worldwide,” said Ambassador Nazarian. He continued, “By listening to Edvard Greig’s masterpieces we establish a special connection with the people and century-long humanitarian tradition of Norway as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of the prominent Norwegian explorer, scientist, diplomat and Nobel Laureate Fridtjof Nansen. This concert is one of the numerous cultural events and exhibitions organized by the Armenian diplomatic missions and the Armenian Diaspora in many world capitals and in my hometown of Yerevan, signifying the respect and veneration of the Armenian people and its government toward the fond memory and name of Nansen.”
“This was one of the most monumental evenings of my entire performing life. The program that I had spent countless hours envisioning in my head came to life in such a beautiful way, with everyone truly giving their all to every note they played,” said Poghosyan. “I congratulate and thank all of my fellow performers for putting such committed effort into this evening. They are not only highly gifted artists, but also beautiful human beings and it was an honor working with them all.” This year’s talented and award-winning international group of AGBU performing artists included Hayrapet Arakelyan (saxophone), Ruth Boyajian (harp), Ani Bukujian (violin), Christian Erbslöh-Papazian (piano), Lilit Kurdiyan (cello), Aleksandr Nazaryan (viola), Cecee Pantikian (violin), Kariné Poghosyan (piano) and Ursula von Lerber (piano).
Violinist Ani Bukujian, originally from Los Angeles, expressed her enthusiasm for being a part of the 2011 concert, and her gratitude to AGBU. “It was an honor playing with the other artists, as well as getting to meet many of the people at the AGBU Central Office. I would also like to thank AGBU for offering me a scholarship toward my education at the Juilliard School. I am extremely grateful and happy to have met such kind-hearted people during tough times here in New York. Thank you, AGBU, for all your support.” Harpist Ruth Boyajian added, “My experience performing in the AGBU concert was incredible! I was so thankful for the scholarship, and it was an honor to be invited to perform in the annual concert with such gifted musicians. The generosity of AGBU has been a great encouragement to me, and I am so grateful for all of the wonderful experiences I have been given by the organization.”
This year’s concert not only welcomed to the stage AGBU’s US talents but, for the first time, opened its arms to embrace the European artists, who were truly appreciative of the artistic and cultural exchange. “The concert was an opportunity to say thank you to the people who have been helping me for years, to say thank you with my art. The feeling I got was a feeling of love, of trying to do the best for our nation,” expressed Hayrapet Arakelyan of Germany.”The Armenian culture, so strongly defended by AGBU, is finding an extraordinary exchange process. Our everyday spoken language may be German, French, or Bulgarian, but we all are proud to participate to keep alive our millennial Armenian heritage. We are proud to feel we belong to the AGBU family,” remarked piano duo Christian Erbslöh-Papazian and Ursula von Lerber of France.