Annie Sarafian-Yepremian: “I love Armenian poetry”

The Ministry of Diaspora of the Republic of Armenia always values and appreciates the pro-national activities of remarkable Armenian public, political, national and cultural figures in the Diaspora. On July 27, the Minister of Diaspora of the Republic of Armenia awarded several Diaspora Armenian cultural figures, including Lebanese-Armenian reciter, Director of Ararad Daily, Chairwoman of Nor Serount Armenian Cultural Association Annie Sarafian-Yepremian, who engaged in a cordial conversation with Hayern Aysor’s correspondent during the interview that Hayern Aysor presents to its readers.

Karine Avagyan: Annie, I cordially congratulate you on receiving the William Saroyan Medal of the Ministry. You surely have many more awards for your pro-national efforts, and every award is symbolic. Let’s talk about this.

Annie Sarafian-Yepremian: Thank you very much for your congratulatory remarks. Of course, I have received many awards, and every award is symbolic, but the symbol and significance of the award that I received in the Homeland are totally different. I am very happy and emotional. True, I work and disseminate Armenian culture without any expectations, but it is nice to be paid attention to and to be appreciated by the Mother Homeland, particularly by the Ministry of Diaspora.

Karine Avagyan: Reciting is a unique and innate talent. Did you start reciting when you were a child?

Annie Sarafian-Yepremian: As you said, reciting is a gift, and it is a God-given one at that. You can’t become a reciter by learning how to become a reciter. You have to have certain attributes in order to achieve success. I also owe it to my father’s side of the family. My father, the late and very patriotic Hagop Sarafian had a special love and taste for the arts. My mother had an exceptional voice. As you see, I grew up in a very cultural family of art lovers. Of course, attending an Armenian school was also a great contribution. The Armenian community of Lebanon attaches great importance to the arts and culture and is concerned about Armenian language and literature. Every year, under the sponsorship of the Khatchig Papikian Fund, the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia hosts a recitation competition that gathers Armenian pupils of secondary and middle schools, and I have been a member of the jury for about seven years now.

Karine Avagyan: Annie, when did you start reciting? Where was the first place you recited?

Annie Sarafian-Yepremian: I started reciting and reading the works of Armenian writers when I was very little. I love Armenian poetry. The first time I recited on stage was in one of the remarkable halls in Beirut when I was still in school. The audience was packed with 700 people. I recited the poems of Western Armenian and Eastern Armenian writers.

Karine Avagyan: Who prepares the programs for your concerts?

Annie Sarafian-Yepremian: I have been preparing the programs for my concerts since I was little because I need to feel and understand which poem comes from my soul and which poem I can present to the audience the way I feel it.

Karine Avagyan: How do you organize your recitation events?

Annie Sarafian-Yepremian: I participate in the events hosted by all unions, societies, associations and organizations of Lebanon. I always pay heed to requests with pleasure, and I do everything without any self-interest.

Karine Avagyan: Annie, which other countries have you performed in?

Annie Sarafian-Yepremian: I have recited in Syria (Aleppo, Damascus), the United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi, Dubai), Bulgaria (Sofia), Canada (Toronto, Montreal), the United States of America (California, Louisiana) and Iran (Tehran). It has always been my dream to perform in the Homeland, and my dream is coming true since I will be reciting for my dear audience in Armenia during the event called “My Dream” at Arno Babajanyan Concert Hall.

Karine Avagyan: You are very busy. Besides reciting, you also perform other tasks outside of Lebanon. Please, tell us about that.

Annie Sarafian-Yepremian: Yes, you are right. I carry out major tasks in Lebanon. It has already been about five years since I assumed the duties of director of Ararad Daily. I am busy at the editorial office until late at night. I don’t even have time to write. A group of young people and I have formed a good team of new and consolidated people who work with our editorial staff from different parts of the world. Our daily features various articles. The daily’s editor-in-chief is Avedis Razmig. I am also the chairwoman of Lebanon’s Nor Serount Armenian Cultural Association. We host many events throughout the year, but our major task is centered on the Areg Armenian Dance Group, which consists of child and adult dancers. They can’t preserve the Armenian identity by only attending school. When they sing Armenian songs, dance Armenian dances, recite Armenian poems and disseminate Armenian culture, they will feel that they are Armenians with more power. The dance group hasn’t performed at many events yet. Two years ago, the dance group performed in Syria. Last week, it performed in front of a packed audience in Lebanon that gave endless rounds of applause. I hope the dance group participates in the cultural festival to be held by the Ministry of Diaspora of the Republic of Armenia in 2018.

Karine Avagyan: Annie, what else are you involved in?

Annie Sarafian-Yepremian: I also have a family. I am a housewife, a mother of three and have grandchildren. My three children have graduated from universities. My elder daughter is a translator, my younger daughter is a graphic designer, and my son is a marketing specialist. They also take part in and help me with my work.

Karine Avagyan: Let me get back to recitation.  Which of the notable reciters has set an example for you and a great reciter?

Annie Sarafian-Yepremian: Unfortunately, I recently learned about the death of my very beloved reciter Vera Hakobyan, who is one of the artists who first established the cultural ties between Armenia and the Diaspora. I remember her from childhood. Many years ago when Vera Hakobyan was coming to Lebanon, I would be very impressed with her reciting. Since then, she has been my ideal. I grew up listening to her recite poems. She made me love my Homeland more with her reciting of patriotic poems.

Karine Avagyan: Are your concerts thematic?

Annie Sarafian-Yepremian: They are not always thematic, but I have organized recitation events devoted to a major anniversary and holidays and days of remembrance of the Armenian nation. Some of them include the events devoted to Silva Kaputikyan (“Dialogue between Me and Within Me”), Vardges Petrosyan (“Armenian Sketches”), the works of Sayat-Nova, the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide and more.

Karine Avagyan: Annie, let’s end our interview with your heartfelt words about the Homeland. What does the Homeland mean to you?

Annie Sarafian-Yepremian:

“My Homeland!

I believe in the eternal call of your sacred land,

I believe in your mountains – enthroned in the sky,

You are the unwavering eternal traveler,

The truth that rejects death,

You are the faithful eye of eternity

That is open,

And with your eternal eye,

You look at what is ahead

And see your future,

Dovecot of peace…”

This is what the Homeland means to me.

With these lines from a poem by a contemporary Armenian poet, I end my interview with one of the unwavering Armenian cultural figures of the Diaspora, the always shining Annie Sarafian-Yepremian.

Karine Avagyan

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