Tigran Hamasyan arrives at Ani and Aghtamar

Tigran Hamasyan begun his tour with the Yerevan State Chamber Choir led by conductor Harutyun Topikyan titled ‘Luys i Luso (Light of Light)’, blending Armenian Churh Music with jazz, in June. Within the scope of this tour, Hamasyan has given concerts at Ani and Akhtamar, and will come to Istanbul after giving concerts in Diyarbakır, Kayseri and Vakıflı.

Hamasyan will take part in the Istanbul Jazz Festival, presenting the ‘Luys i Luso’ repertoire on June 30 at Hagia Irene, and songs from his most recent album ‘Mockroot’ on July 1. I had the chance to watch Hamasyan perform at Ani and Aghtamar. 

June 21 is the longest day of the year. The grand piano is set up right before the city walls at the entrance of Ani, because we have no permission to hold a concert in the church. Hamasyan slightly complains as he says, “It is disconcerting that we have to perform this music in open air. These are songs composed for church, and without an acoustic environment, sounds disappear”. Although the sounds might disappear, the setting is quite impressive; behind the ‘stage’, the city of Ani, in all its magnificence, and beyond it, Armenia, on the other side of the border, complete the picture.

23 people line up around the piano, led by conductor Harutyun Topikyan. They are all wearing Shabig (the vestment worn for the Divine Liturgy). As the concert begins, the sun is still high above us, but no one is complaining. The concert begins with Mashdots’s ‘Anganim Aratchi Ko (I Kneel Before Thee)’, followed by another piece by Mashdots… Hamasyan has created a brand new, 13-minute work from a 40-second melody of Pahlavuni ‘Ov Zarmanali’, and his improvisations amaze everyone, including the chorists, proof that Hamasyan manages to produce entirely different melodies at every turn. As he enters a trance at the piano, his wife Lena performs an improvised dance. In this pastoral and surreal atmosphere, the sense of time and space disappear. Everyone is aware that they are witnessing a historical moment. As the sun sets, divine melodies echo across Ani, and we are perhaps at that moment when we are closest to God.

On June 23, the day is perhaps a few minutes shorter than the longest day. There is no grand piano this time, because it is impossible to transport it to the top of the hill. This time, the Aghtamar Cathedral of the Holy Cross forms the backdrop for the ‘stage’. Hamasyan and the choir enter the stage from the left of the church. There is no doubt that they resemble Jesus and his Apostles. I now listen to a completely different set compared to the day before. Along with Hamasyan’s improvisations, boats full of people that have turned up for the concert provide great energy to the musicians. I am not the only person oscillating between awe and ecstasy. A positive state of delirium, led by Hamasyan, pervades the audience.

The moment he leaves the piano, Hamasyan picks up his melodica, like he did in Aghtamar. As the departure time of the last boat to leave the island nears, Tigran walks up to the observation hill, the most beautiful point of the island. He is accompanied by soprano Jenni Nazaryan. Their duet with Nazaryan, Naregatsi’s ‘Havun Havun’, now echoes along the walls of the cathedral. Aghtamar witnesses a historic moment. The sun, meanwhile, has long set.

Click here to access the interview with Tigran Hamasyan and photographs from the concert. 


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Lora Sarı