" 'Armenian Voices' is a wonderful introduction to an amazing choir. This is a beautifully produced CD that I will cherish" - ATOM EGOYAN, Academy Award Nominated Film Maker ("The Sweet Hereafter")
*** 2004 Just Plain Folks Award Nomination- Best Middle Eastern/Ethnic Language Album (Winner to be announced November 2004)
*** 2002 Armenian Music Awards Nomination - Best Liturgical Album
*** 2000 International Choral Olympiad - Gold Medal Winner
21 voices. an ancient country. the Armenian soul. ARMENIAN VOICES.
Discover the vocal group that stunned international audiences at the 2000 Choral Olympiad in Linz, Austria.
ARMENIAN VOICES | Chamber Choir of Armenia | HOVER
1. Esti Dal (Evensong) | Zóltan Kodály (1882-1967) | Hungary
2. Carol | Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) | Great Britain
3. Ye that Pasen by | Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) | Great Britain
4. Remember not, Lord, Our Offences | Henry Purcell (1659-1695) | Great Britain
5. Crucifixus | Antonio Lotti (1666-1740) | Italy
6. Timor et Tremor | Francis Poulenc (1899-1963) | France
7. Nicolette | Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) | France
8. Lenten is Come | Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) | Great Britain
9. A Hymn to the Virgin | Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) | Great Britain
10. Ode (Sirt im sasani) | Mkhitar Ayrivanetsi (13th c.) - Komitas (Soghomon Soghomonyan) (1869-1935) | Armenia
11. Threshing Song (Sandi yerg) | Komitas (1869-1935) | Armenia
12. Ploughing Song of Lori (Loretsineri gutani horovel) | Komitas (1869-1935) | Armenia
13. A Pumpkin Grows on the Garden Wall (Baghi pate ddum a) | Komitas (1869-1935) | Armenia
14. Greeting the Morning (Aravotun bari luys) | Komitas (1869-1935) | Armenia
15. Cloudy Skies (Ampel a kamar-kamar) | Komitas (1869-1935) | Armenia
16. Dance-songs (Parerger) | Komitas (1869-1935) | Armenia
17. Secretary to God (Asttso kartughare) | Arzas Voskanyan (1947) | Armenia
18. A Quiet Place | Ralph Carmichael- Jerry Rubino (20th c.) | USA
19. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot | George Gershwin (1898-1937) | USA
20. Michelle | John Lennon (1940-80) - Paul McCartney (1942) | Great Britain
21. Scherzo | Lars Edlund (1922) | Sweden
About the HOVER Choir
Why name a choir Hover [pronounced hoh-vér]? A lot of reasons. In Armenian, it evokes the image of song soaring on the wind. Hover is one of the most beautiful Armenian folk songs by Komitas vartapet, a revered name in Armenian sacred and folk music, which is part of the choir's core repertoire. It captures the fleeting and ungraspable nature of music. It reminds us of the wind rushing through our living reeds as we sing, and the choir's distinctive sound, like a human pipe organ. Like the wind, their sound with its warm harmony, fragrant tradition, and refreshing innovation, produces the mysterious caress of art. Wind is a primordial element of nature and the life force of breath. It is part of the "ecology of the soul," the spirit sweeping through time, like epic, legend, tale... The tale of Hover began ten years ago and continues to evolve.
The Hover Chamber Choir came together in Yerevan in 1992 as a volunteer performing arts group, supported by private donations. Its 24 singers were mostly students and recent graduates of the Komitas National Conservatory, but also included an actor, an architect, an ethnographer and a philologist. Through intensive rehearsals, these individuals became a disciplined musical instrument with crystal diction, pure sound, and versatility. Sona Hovhannisyan, the founder and artistic director of Hover says, "our rehearsals are exhilarating - the music, range of styles, use of mime, color, and our unique sound."
Sona Hovhannisyan was born in 1963 to a musical family in Yerevan. She graduated from the Yeghishe Charents English-language secondary school and the Sayat-Nova music school. Her early attraction to choral art led her to become a founding member of Arthur Veranyan's experimental women's choir. In 1984, she graduated with honors from the conducting faculty of the Romanos Melikyan Musical College in Yerevan and then studied at the Komitas National Conservatory from 1984-89, graduating with honors and staying on to pursue graduate work. Since her student years Sona has been a choir director, leading the school choir at Secondary School No. 119 to national acclaim, as well as directing the children's choir of the Yerevan Pioneers Palace and Hayren Chamber Choir (founded by S. Ter-Ghazaryan).
In 1992, Sona founded the Hover Chamber Choir, which she continues to serve as artistic director and conductor. The Hover Chamber Choir has three main goals: (1) releasing Armenian and international classics from their "petrified state" and infusing them with life; (2) bringing contemporary works to Armenian audiences and expanding choral repertoire and tastes with rarely performed works; (3) creating a new choral genre, combining mime and song, adding a visual, kinetic dimension, though not a dance element, using movement symbolically, as signs of life, death, eternity, love, farce, and folk ritual. This melding of song and motion connects Hover to primordial folk traditions, and yet presents a fresh, modern synthesis of the performing arts.
Hover's debut in the summer of 1995 was highlighted by the theatrical premiere of Honnegger's cantata-oratorio Danse des Mourants: "The performers' exquisite artistry shined throughout the program. Honnegger's oratorio mesmerized the audience with its synthesis of song and motion. The concert is a promising start for this new choir." (Ye. Dilanyan, Voice of Armenia, September 9, 1995).
The choir lived up to this promise, distinguishing itself in international music festivals including the Britten Festival (1996), Germany (1996), Italy (1997), France (1998), Christianity Festival in Armenia (2001), culminating in a Gold Medal at the International Choir Olympiad in Linz, Austria, in 2000. Armenia's musical ambassador, Hover has brought a new quality to Armenian sacred and folk music on the international music scene, symbolic of Armenia's national reawakening and renewed independence.
Hover's repertoire continued to expand as well, including works of Ludwig Basil, a contemporary Armenian composer from Germany (CD recorded in 1996), plain chant and polyphonic Armenian sacred music from the middle ages (sharakans), a four-part setting of St. Gregory of Narek's (10th cent.) Book of Lamentations, and the Armenian premiere of Benjamin Britten's "Cantata Misericordium" (1996).
Music critics and journalists in Armenia, Russia, France, Italy and Austria have praised Hover for its timbre, precision, and sophisticated handling of close harmonies and complex rhythms of Armenian, classical and especially modern works. "Hover has its own character, style, and charm . . . combining harmonic unity with the soloist virtuosity." (Z. Ter-Ghazaryan, "Aravot," Dec. 22, 1999).
In 1997, the judges at the 45th International Polyphonic Music Festival (Guido d'Arezzo/Polifonico Internazionale) awarded the choir special recognition: "impressive musicality ... a pleasant surprise" (Greek judge), "excellent selections, wonderful intonation, timbre, movement and energy (British judge); "fresh interpretations for the obligatory program, colorful timbre, outstanding rhythmic sense" (Italian judge). The Italian tour was rounded out by concerts in Vigonza and the on the Armenian Mechitarist island monastery of San Lazzaro in Venice.
The choir continued to garner accolades in 1999 at the International Choir Competition in Tours, France. "This competition was an outstanding creative achievement. The repertoire, from medieval to avant-garde, was extremely demanding, including post-modern choral sounds and articulations that distinguish Hover as a unique performing group that makes a sophisticated, yet relaxed connection with the audience." (L. Yepremyan, New Times, July 3, 1999).
At home, Hover continued to break new ground, performing Bach's St. John Passion (Apr. 1999) and St. Matthew Passion (Apr. 2000), under the able direction of Zaven Vardanyan with "virtuosity and professionalism." (S. Sargsyan, The Nation, Apr. 29, 2000). Hover has also become a highlight of the Christmas and New Year season, performing Armenian and international carols from different eras and cultures. In 1998 the choir staged a retelling of the Christmas story, directed by Arthur Manukyan with musician Mkrtich Babajanyan's imaginary shadow-images serving as a backdrop. Critics raved: "It is difficult to find words to describe the images, born of light and shadow...it is original, simple and beautiful." (N. Alexanyan, Armenian Republic, Jan. 29, 1998). This was a validation and coming of age for the young choir. But the pinnacle in Hover's creative biography to date was winning the gold medal for chamber choirs at the International Choir Olympiad in Linz, Austria (July 2000) in which over 300 choirs participated.
In 2001, in honor of the 1700th anniversary of the adoption of Christianity as Armenia's state religion, the choir prepared a large repertoire of Armenian chants and sacred music. Hover has recorded more than thirty chants that grace Armenia's airwaves daily on the Vem Classical Radio station. "We have to confess, it is difficult to take the stage after Sona Hovhannisyan's Hover Chamber Choir. The youthful energy this choir brings to theatrical choral performance has stretched the classical boundaries of pure choral art. Choirs will have to go a long way to match Hover." (A. Demirjyan, Armenian Republic, June 20, 2001).
Hover's most recent creative effort is a musical-theatrical production based on the Christian fables of the 13th-century Armenian parable-writer Vardan Aigektsi. Combining singing, instrumental music, narrative, theatre and dance, in traditional Armenian as well as non-traditional settings, the choir seeks to bring music alive for its audiences. It portrays the seven cardinal Christian virtues in a uniquely Armenian manner. With original music by Stepan Babatorosyan, hand-made costumes, authentic instrumental accompaniment, and hand-held stage props, the production is reminiscent of traveling troupes of ages past, performing in public spaces for the entertainment and enlightenment of audiences young and old.
Liner Notes by: Mkrtich Kubelyan, Ph. D.
Translated from Armenian by: Artsvi Bakhchinyan, Ph. D.
The Hover Chamber Choir of Armenia Members:
Varouzhan Margaryan, Plowing Song of Lori traditional
Arthur Manukyan, Greeting the Morning traditional
Yeva Podpomogova, A Quiet Place Ralph Carmichael
We are so alike: by Sona Hovanessian, Choir Director
There are some states of life when people, though so different, are immersed in one spirit and become a small part of a common inner world. This phenomenon has different names. "Choir" is one of them. Whatever we do, however perfect our strengths become, however much our quality is polished, we do not differ in essence from a person who lives and sings in a distant country. A singing person is a cosmic person. A person, who was walking, talking, eating, laughing a moment before, becomes another, totally different creature when singing. One is lost in an awe-inspiring state of life. To sing or to sing well is not an aim in itself. It is a means. Achievement of spiritual perfection and excellence is the impulse behind the act of singing. Song changes us, refines us, and brings us to the happy conviction that we are all indeed so alike.
A POMEGRANATE MUSIC PRODUCTION
Produced by Raffi Meneshian
Executive Producer Aram Hajian
Recorded, Mixed, and Mastered by Vladimir Davtyan
Special Consultant Thomas J. Samuelian
Recorded, Mixed, and Mastered at Recorded Studio of State Radio and
Television of Armenia, September-October, 2001, Yerevan, Armenia
Illustration by Ivana Krcadinac
Graphic Designer Arsineh Khachikian
Photography Hrayr Tatikyan
Translations by Artsvi Bakhchinyan
The Hover Chamber Choir expresses its deepest acknowledgments to the following persons who have provided individual assistance in various ways during the activity of the choir and especially during the production of its first CD.
Thomas Samuelian, for his permanent attention to the choir
David Ghazaryan, head of the Musical Association of Armenia
Aram Hajian, Tamar Hajian, Lena Majarian, the late Alice Ohanasian, Mark and Talar Kizirian, Maral Tchelikdjian, to all who participated in the production of the CD, and finally, to all who will listen to the music.
POMEGRANATE MUSIC LOGO
Pomegranate Music is a world, classical, and jazz music label based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, with an office in Yerevan, Armenia. Our purpose is to promote and develop musicians from Armenia. All of our music is recorded in Armenia and performed by local artists. Consistent with Pomegranate's credo, we seek to support local musicians and help them achieve financial sustainability to continue their musical artistry in Armenia.
Armenia has a rich musical history, which has boulstered and expressed the Armenian soul, even in the most difficult of times. This small, proud, and ancient nation is now experiencing an exciting renaissance of creativity, which Pomegranate Music is pleased to share with you.
Pomegranate Music is proud to present to you the debut recording of the Hover Chamber Choir of Armenia.
Those who helped make this possible: Aram Hajian, Tom Samuelian, Gor Mkhitarian, Arsineh Khachikian, Laura Gononian, Onnig Dombalagian, Joshua Mishara, Professor Leon Zurawicki, Professor Silvia Dorado, Joseph Abboud, Berge Hajian, Marco Heller, Ivana Krcadinac.
And all members of the Hover Chamber Choir of Armenia.
Owner, Pomegranate Music
PO Box 381641 | Cambridge, MA 02238