GLENDALE — The most recent Syrian Armenian Relief Fund (SARF) HyeAID 3 concert at the Alex Theatre in Glendale, California, was held on April 29, 2014, and raised one more $100,000 for Syrian Armenians. SARF had sent the earlier $100,000 to help the Armenians who were displaced from their ancestral homes in Kessab, within days of the attack on March 21st.
This concert started with medley of Aram Khachatourian’s music, with Armen Aharonian on the piano, accompanied by his orchestra. Artist-broadcast journalist Nune Avetisyan opened up the concert by reciting poetry by Vahan Tekeyan “Gantsrevé Dghas” (My son it’s raining – in reference to crying). She also made opening remarks thanking the audience for supporting SARF and the volunteer artists, by their attendance, and quoted poet Barouyr Sevag to show the determination of the Armenian people throughout history with “We exist, we shall prevail and multiply.”
SARF Executive Committee chairperson Zaven Khanjian addressed the audience with an inspiring message that reaffirmed the enduring quality of the Armenian people despite the Genocide and the hemorrhaging of the Armenians in Syria, the struggle to make sense of what is going on, the plea to continue assistance, and a message to seek truth and justice. Khanjian noted, “What’s happening in Syria is the latest chapter of the annihilation of our race that started with the heinous crime of the Young Turks in the Ottoman Empire a century ago. This time, not only under the watchful eyes of the world, but the direct involvement and encouragement of some… I have often found myself weak and desperate, which has led me to search the word of God for hope and consolation. Jesus said, “If you hold to my teachings, you are really my disciples, Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John, Chapter 8, verses 31-32). There is no doubt that we should be vigilant in the pursuit of justice.”
Concluding his remarks, Khanjian added, “At this gathering of solidarity with our brethren in the mother Armenian Diaspora community of Syria, let us use our knowledge of the truth in our struggle to bring peace and harmony to ourselves and to the troubled region and life and resurrection to its unjustifiably crucified communities.”
Among the audience were the representatives of the SARF-organizations, including Archbishops Hovnan Derderian and Mousheg Mardirossian, Very Rev. Fr. Andon Atamian, and Rev. Hendrik Shanazarian. In addition to other local clergy, Very Rev. Fr. Tatoul Anoushian of the Armenian Patriarchate was attending from Istanbul, Turkey. Additionally, Ani Keshishian (ARS CEB), Lena Bozoyan (ARS Western USA), Avedik Izmirlian (ARF CC), Krekor Karaguezian (AGBU), Gabriel Moloyan (SDHP), Hagop Nazarian (ADLP), and Esther Tognozzi (Kessab Educational Association of LA) attended the event. The concert was sponsored by many generous donors, including the general sponsor Onnik Mehrabian of Glendale KIA and his family.
The program continued with alternating performances of songs, instrumental music and dance, with a dash of poetry. Aline Aroustamian, Gagik Badalyan, Ani Christy, Harut Hagopian, Harout Jeghelian, Arthur Madoyan, Salpy Mailyan, Heibert Sarian, and Samuel Sahakyan sang; Harout Pamboukjian played the guitar and sang; Ruben Harutunian accompanied the Karavan Studio dancers on the duduk; the Dynamic Duo performed; and the Hamazkayin Ani Dance Company and Hamazkayin Barouyr Sevag “Nairi” Dance Group performed several elaborate dance numbers.
Poet Gailag’s (Panosian) lyrics dedicated to Kessab “Geh Lsvin Voghper” were read by Nune Avetisyan. In honor of renowned composer Konstantine Orbelyan (1928-2014) who had passed away recently, Armen Aharonian played one of his compositions on the piano.
Since Kessab is one of the last remnants of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilica, the closing song was “Giligia” first sung by Arthur Hagopian, who started with an English version, before the rest of the singers joined him to sing the rest of the verses in original Armenian version by Nahabed Rousinian.
Closing remarks were made by Ara Aroyan, vice-chairperson of the SARF Executive Committee, who applauded Louise Mardirossian Gill’s “vision, persistence and persuasion” as co-chairperson of the HyeAID3 organizing committee and handed her a plaque from SARF. The participating artists were handed special congressional certificates of appreciation from Congressman Adam Schiff (28th District) and certificates of recognition from California Assemblymember Mike Gatto (43rd District).
The program was accomplished with a large crew of volunteers and the program execution relied on the technical skills of the production crew including Edgar Nikolian, Neptune Productions and Val Hovanissian.
The varied styles and subjects of the lyrics and dances from “Adana” to “Yeraz Im Yergir” allowed the audience to feel a range of feelings from sorrow to joy. The audience members made their feelings known with their applause and one audience member who lost a family member to the fighting in Kessab said, “They sang, we cried.”
Those who have family members caught in the middle of the conflict in Syria are sacrificing whatever they can to financially support them; it is up to the rest of the public to do its part to let those effected by the calamity in Syria to know that “We are still here” as Zaven Khanjian said.
The following churches, charities and organizations came together to form the Syrian Armenian Relief Fund in August 2012: Armenian Catholic Eparchy in North America; Armenian Evangelical Union of North America; Western Diocese of the Armenian Church; Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America; Armenian General Benevolent Union; Armenian Missionary Association of America; Armenian Relief Society of Western U.S.A.; Armenian Democratic Liberal Party; Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Western U.S.A.; and Social Democrat Hunchakian Party-Western U.S.A. The SARF mailing address follows: P.O. Box 1948, Glendale, CA 91209-1948. The web site address follows: www.SyrianArmenianReliefFund.org.