Varanda and Ayg Armenian choirs met for the first time thanks to “My Armenia” Pan-Armenian Festival

Hayern Aysor’s interlocutor, lecturer of the State Conservatory of Lebanon and Haigazian Univerrsity Zakar Keshishian has been involved in preserving, disseminating and developing Armenian culture abroad for many years with the choirs that he has established.

Zakar Keshishian established the Varanda All-Girls State Children’s and Youth Choir in 1992. Currently, the choir is still active with its children’s, teen and youth groups.

The choir has given over 200 concerts in different regions, military units and schools of Artsakh, as well as in Armenia and Lebanon. It has also performed with Hamazkayin Lebanon’s Karkach Choir. Since its establishment, 400 male and female singers have performed 200 songs.

The choir has added about 150 songs of outstanding Armenian poets and composers. There are two documentary films devoted to the choir, and in 2004, the choir produced the DVD entitled “Berdakaghak” (Citadel). In 2012, a documentary film entitled “Singing Summers” was produced in light of the choir’s 20th anniversary.

For the past 24 years, Zakar Keshishian has been visiting Artsakh in the summers to rehearse with his choir. In his absence, the choir not only continues to rehearse through long-distance connection, but also works with the choirmasters of other choirs who have sung in the choir. Varanda is preparing to celebrate its 25th anniversary this year.

In Lebanon, Zakar Keshishian has established the Karkach children’s and youth choir, Ayg Choir for Four Voices and the One voice quaid choir for foreigners.

Zakar Keshishian established the Ayg Youth Choir of Hamazkayin Armenian Educational and Cultural Society of Beirut in 2008 with the purpose of gathering young students of local universities around choral arts and performing classical, modern and folk choral songs.

Alongside annual concerts, the choir actively participates in the Armenian community life in Lebanon. Besides singing a cappella, the choir is also accompanied by orchestras that perform folk and pop songs.

In 2015, on the occasion of the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide, Ayg Choir performed Khachatur Avetisyan’s oratory entitled “Songs about Love and Living Abroad”. It has participated in the Beirut Chants and Lebanon’s international choral arts festivals and has performed in Cyprus twice.

The mission of the choir is to present Armenian songs to foreigners, and for that it organizes concerts at various universities across Lebanon.

“Ayg Choir only has 18-23-year-old Lebanese-Armenian singers who used to sing in Karkach Choir. Out of the 40 members, 30 participated in the 3rd “My Armenia” Pan-Armenian Festival organized by the RA Ministry of Diaspora this year,” Zakar Keshishian said in an interview with Hayern Aysor, adding that the choir of foreign singers was established within the scope of the UN Development Programme. The first concert was held on July 11, 2016. The choir is mainly composed of Arab singers, but there are also Lebanese-Armenian singers.

Keshishian said the choir also sings international songs, but Armenian songs have their special place. According to Keshishian, the choir performs Armenian songs with great pleasure.

At the end, Zakar Keshishian touched upon the “My Armenia” Pan-Armenian Festival and stated the following: “Everyone was excited to participate in this cultural event. During the festival, we are able to establish close ties with other Armenian choirs abroad and establish cooperation, and I think this is important. After receiving more strength and energy from the homeland, the young Diasporan Armenians return to their respective countries of residence with a higher sense of responsibility for what they do. Most of the members of Ayg Choir were visiting Armenia for the first time ever and wanted to visit as many historic and cultural sites as possible in order to discover Armenia.

Our participation in the festival was also important in that the Varanda and Ayg Choirs met in Yerevan and got to know each other for the first time.

Gevorg Chichyan

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