Saturday, January 18, 2020, a concert in celebration of the 150th anniversary of Gomidas Vartabed was held at St. John Armenian Church, featuring Grammy® nominated, world-renowned soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian and friends. This sold-out concert was dedicated to one of the giants of the Armenian music and one of the most prominent ethnomusicologists, compose, conductor of all time Gomidas Vartabed (nee Soghomon Soghomonian). The pre-concert lecture and Champaign reception were held at the small hall. Dr. Artin Der Minasians provided insights into the works on the program examining its social and historical context.
The concert started at 6:00 pm in the sanctuary. The opening remarks were done by Rev. Fr. Mesrop Ash, Parish Priest of St. John Armenian Church. Fr. Ash acknowledged the present clergy Very Rev. Ft. Smpad Saboundjian, Badveli Calvin Sagherian, as well as Maestro Constantine Orbelian. He welcomed the audience and expressed his gratitude to the sponsors, committee members, volunteers, Ms. Isable Bayrakdarian and all the musicians who made this event possible.
Ms. Bayrakdarian started the program with the Lord’s Prayer followed by a series of folk songs arranged for Soprano and String Quartet by Artur Avanesov and Artashes Kartalyan. She captured the heart of the audience immediately with her elegance and brilliant voice. She was accompanied by a string quartet, Alexander Kalman, violin, Dimitry Olevsky, violin, Jonathan Moerschel, viola, and Garik Terzian, cello.
In the second part of the program, Isabel sang children’s songs with grace and beauty. She was accompanied by flutist Jill Felber, and harpist Ellie Choate arranged for voice, flute, and harp by Artur Avanesov which was performed with glowing tone and passion. The last part of the program was Sacred Hymns, Wedding and Rustic Folk Songs for Soprano and Chamber Choir. The chorus, under Anne Hamre's direction, instilled emotion into every note and carefully crafted each phrase of the piece.
It was a very spirited performance and inspiring to listen to these artists perform the work of our legend Gomidas Vartabed. Ms. Bayrakdarian mesmerized the audience by her stage presence and warm and expressive performance. She demonstrated her brilliant technical ability and also her musicality and expressiveness. The performers received thunderous applause and a standing ovation.
"An event such as this raises the collective spirit of the community, inviting them to reconnect with the vital heart of Armenian Culture, at the core of which is our faith in Jesus Christ," said Fr. Mesrop of the event.
Following the concert, the audience was invited to a reception to meet and greet the artists.