Armenia celebrates its culture with its International Music Festival

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Armenia, the oldest Christian state in the world, is a crossroads of civilizations and influences in the South Caucasus, on the borders of Europe and Persia, wedged between the Russian-speaking and Turkish-speaking spheres.

Showcasing Armenia’s new talent to the world

Culture, and music in particular, is at the heart of the Armenian identity, which led Aleksandr Yesayan to become one of the main patrons of the “Armenia” International Music Festival”, which has been held for 7 years in Yerevan, the Armenian capital. 

I think culture played a big role over centuries of our history and a vital role as well, in promoting Armenian culture and Armenia as a nation, to the world,” reflects the young businessman. “There are countless opportunities for a small country like Armenia, with a population of just three million, to showcase its heritage, history and culture of today and tomorrow, and to showcase its new talent to the world.

Enticing a young audience

Conductor Sergey Smbatyan is the founder and artistic director of the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra, which grew out of the State Youth Symphonic Orchestra.

He has since created the “Armenia” International Music Festival, which, for a month in early autumn, offers a program of concerts combining Armenian and world music, classical and contemporary.

It’s a young orchestra, with a very old-fashioned vision of what is ‘being famous’ and being on the list of the great orchestras,” explains the conductor. “But, it also has a very creative agenda and a feeling that today it’s important to represent and find the right way to deliver music, but also to make the magic happen for young audiences..”

This year, the proceeds from the festival concerts will go towards aiding the displaced people of Nagorno-Karabakh who were forced to leave their homeland.

Sergey Smbatyan conducting his orchestra

Culture and music: foundations of Armenian Heritage

For the Armenians, culture and music are some of the cornerstones of their identity.

We have a very rich folk tradition and most Armenian classical composers used some folk music, melodies, rhythms and harmonies in their classical pieces,” says Arevik Galyan, a cellist with the orchestra. “As a result, Armenian classical music has become a sort of blend of folk music and classical traditions.”

Orchestra in rehearsal

Armenians are very passionate about their culture and their music, and this orchestra is actually a prime example because, in a country with such a small financial base, this orchestra became a full-time professional orchestra, in the 21st century,” points out oboe player, Martine Varnik. “There are very few countries in the world where something like this happens. It says something about Armenia’s devotion to music.”

To close the festival, the orchestra played “Symphonic Adiemus” by Karl Jenkins, a contemporary Welsh composer who came to Yerevan 4 years ago to conduct his own piece.

Aram Khachaturian Concert Hall – one of the architectural treasures of Yerevan.

The “Armenia” International Music Festival and its symphony orchestra now occupy a recognized place on the map of international classical music festivals. In its 7th year, the emerging event welcomed thousands of music lovers and musicians. Excellence is the order of the day, and far from being futile, this major event for Armenia demonstrates not only solidarity but also the continuity and importance of culture for an entire people and nation.

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