We met our objective with honor
June 4, 2011. hayernaysor.am.
As we had already informed, the Paros Chamber Choir, which is mainly composed of disabled singers in wheelchairs, represented Armenia at the 6th Musica Sacra International Contest-Festival of Choir Music held in Bratislava on May 26-29 and brought home two bronze medals and one special prize.
The day after the choir’s return to Yerevan, the choir’s artistic director, choirmaster Raffi Mikayelyan visited “HayernAysor” editorial office, and the following is our interview with Raffi Mikayelyan:
“Hayernaysor”: We congratulate the choir on its brilliant victory. Raffi, were there other similar choirs at the contest-festival in Bratislava? I’m referring to singers in wheelchairs.
Raffi Mikayelyan: No, Paros was the only one, but that could in no way be the reason for “special” attitude toward us. The contest committee was guided by professionalism, and the choir earned the awards with merit.
“Hayernaysor”: The choir won two bronze medals and a special prize. What does this mean for the choir?
R. M.: First, I must say that there was variety. There were categories for children and youth choirs, as well as categories for up-to 12, 15, 16-23 and 24-member choirs. Our choir performed in the 16-23-member choir category and received bronze medals in the “Chamber Choir” and “Church (Spiritual) Music” categories. I must say that nobody received the Gran Prix and Gold Medal in those categories, meaning we were in 2nd place. Only Paros received a special prize “For Presenting Armenian Music”, and was the only one that received the three best prizes.
“Hayernaysor”: Who were the participants? Were there only recreational choirs?
R. M.: To tell you the truth, Paros thought that there would only be recreational choirs, but it turned out that there were also well-known, professional choirs, including two Academic Choirs from Poland and Slovakia. The level of the participants was rather high, and there was a moment when I started doubting whether we would receive a prize or not.
R. M.: But thank God, we didn’t stay behind. Perhaps we sang well (they say we sang very well) and the contest committee appreciated that. If I add that there was one less tenor in the 4-member tenor group before the contest (it turned out that the main tenor had to return to Yerevan to undergo an urgent operation) for which we had to change groups, but still received awards, I can surely say that the choir met its objective with honor.
“Hayernaysor”: Besides the contest, did the choir have other plans such as concerts or tours?
R. M.: First, I would like to say that the contest was being held in one of the luxurious concert halls in Bratislava, which is called the Hall of Mirrors. That is the hall where Napoleon and the Austrian emperor signed the Austerlitz Treaty. When the choir wasn’t competing, we gave small concerts, took strolls and had meetings. The most memorable event was the opening of the contest held at the Catholic temple where we performed with several other choirs. We also gave a concert at the temple with the participation of all participating choirs. We sang the works by Handel, Mozart and Rakhmaninov during the Liturgy.
“Hayernaysor”: Before participating in the Musica Saca Contest-Festival, Paros Choir gave four concerts in Vienna at the invitation of the Vienna City Council, which the presses touched upon. Could you tell us a little about the tour in Austria?
R. M.: Yes, we spent eight days in Vienna. We mainly gave concerts at the technical school in Vienna, the elders’ home and the culture home. We also had “exprompt” performances, such as a performance near the St. Stepanos Temple at the major square in Vienna. The choir was warmly received everywhere. Besides the Austrians, the concerts were attended by our fellow Armenians, including AGBU representatives of the local Armenian community, employees of the Armenian Embassy in Austria, the congregates of the Mekhitarist Congregation of Vienna, servants of the Armenian Apostolic Church and simply Armenians living in Vienna.
“Hayernaysor”: Did the choir have the same repertoire of songs?
R. M.: No, the repertoire was totally different. We had included many more folk songs, including songs by Komitas, Yekmalyan, Kara-Murza, Kanachyan, Terteryan and others. We started with Edgar Hovhannisyan and ended with H. Odabashyan’s “Mother Armenia”.
“Hayernaysor”: Tell us a little about yourself. You graduated with a degree in orchestra conducting from Yerevan Komitas State Conservatory. Could you ever picture yourself as a choirmaster?
R. M.: I started as a choirmaster. True, I had a great desire (and still do) of conducting an orchestra, but there are not too many opportunities in Armenia. I am currently a choirmaster. I not only direct the choir, but have been singing in the State Academic Choir of Armenia for several years now and that has helped me love choirs more. The State Choir of Armenia is a large school with its rich, diverse repertoire, style of singing and finally, the unmatched interpretations of Maestro Chekijyan. That develops and enriches any musician.
“Hayernaysor”: And my last question: Is it likely for Paros to receive a state status?
R. M.: We were promised a state status last year, but it didn’t work out. Instead, we started receiving some sponsorship from VivaCell-MTS. I hope that the last tour and the prizes will change something in the near future.
Taking the opportunity, I would like to thank those who sponsored the choir’s concert tours in Austria and Slovakia, including RA President Serzh Sargsyan, NA Chairman Hovik Abrahamyan, the Ministry of Culture (Hasmik Poghosyan), as well as Unison NGO, which is involved in the protection of the rights of the disabled and which Paros Choir is a part of.
Interview by Hayk Karapetyan