Culture 13:56 06/09/2022 Armenia

Tavush children's choir: from sacred to contemporary music, from jazz to rock

Under the auspices of Bishop Bagrat Galstanyan, Primate of the Tavush Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Tavush Diocese Children's Choir was founded in 2016. Performing sacred and secular works, the choir is now preparing for the Another World concert to be held in Yerevan on September 7 as part of the STARMUS VI festival. Children and teenagers from Tavush Province are set to share a stage with Queen guitarist Brian May, who is looking forward to meeting them. has talked to Maria Galstyan, the conductor of the Tavush Diocese Children and Youth Choir, about the upcoming concert and not only. How old are the children in the choir and what works do they perform?

Maria Galstyan: The choir brings together children aged 8-18. The repertoire is quite varied, ranging from religious (5th-century) to contemporary music. The repertoire features sacred monodies, their modern polyphonic arrangements and secular works, including Western European classics and popular compositions. With regards to the genre and style, it ranges from classical music to jazz, blues and rock. It is also extremely important for us to have the children participate in festive liturgies. In the near future, we plan to organize pilgrimages to the border settlements of Tavush to record sharakans [spiritual poems]. Tavush is a border region. Does it somehow affect the education, daily life and interests of children?

Maria Galstyan: The choir works at the residence of the Tavush Diocese and the rehearsal room is in Ijevan. The children are actively engaged in educational, social activities and camping. They take good care of their community, environment and friends, standing firm on their own feet. In my opinion, they are the ambassadors and representatives of Tavush Province, as best evidenced by their active work. We also have children from the villages, including a child whose father travels 23 kilometers every week to take him to Ijevan to participate in the choir rehearsals. Are there many who want to specialize in this area?

Maria Galstyan: It's for them to make a decision. My job is to introduce them to the beautiful, to the choral art and its settings, which is very multi-layered and forms a community mindset, provides stress-resistance in children and develops a range of creative and fundamental skills.

I would like to tell you an exciting story: during a rehearsal there was this conversation about the career choice. There were 42 people in the choir, and 17 of them raised their hands and said they wanted to be choirmasters. It was exciting and surprising at the same time for me. I will be very happy for their future success no matter what profession the children will pick. I will only welcome it. The most important thing is that they have very firm roots. Is the choir planning to hold any concerts in Armenia or abroad?

Maria Galstyan: I cannot say anything at this point. It came as a surprise to us that our performance of the Queen songs went viral on social media, receiving feedback from Brian May. It's really all very exciting. We are featured in the Another World concert program on September 7 with a joint performance. We're getting ready for that. Can you tell us more about the concert? Who did you get the offer from? Incidentally, Queen guitarist and STARMUS festival co-founder Brian May shared on his Instagram page the performance of “Bohemian Rhapsody” by the Tavush Children and Youth Choir. He said he was looking forward to his first visit to Armenia for STARMUS VI.

Maria Galstyan: Everything went very smoothly. After Brian May expressed a desire to come to Tavush and meet the choir, during a verbal conversation mediated by Garik Israelyan, co- founder of the STARMUS global festival of science communication and art, we proposed to organize a joint performance. Brian May very unexpectedly said that he would like to perform "We Will Rock You" with the choir as well. I would like to thank Mr. Israelyan for providing this communication and passing on the invitation to him. How did the children react to the news?

Maria Galstyan: They had learned about it before I did. I wasn't in the country at the time. I was on vacation and didn't use social media. When I came back, I heard it all from the kids. It was very exciting.

Now we are preparing for the concert, holding rehearsals. We are looking forward to our performance on September 7 with trembling hearts. Of course, this is a very joyful fact, but we can't fully express our joy because of the ongoing developments in our homeland. I cannot fully enjoy my victories and successes. At the same time, I have hope that my homeland will also be restored thanks to our dedication and hard work. Thank you.

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