Delegates of the 13th Biennial Assembly of the Western Diocese Church Choirs with Priests and Assembly Officers, seated left to right, Central Council Chair Sevag Derderian, Fr. Zaven Markosyan of Yettem, Presiding Fr. Haroutioun Tachejian of Los Angeles and Assembly Chair Deacon Allan Y. Jendian.

VAN NUYS — The Association of Armenian Church Choirs of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America (AACCWD) held a three-day convention in Van Nuys, California, November 8-10, 2019. The convention was a culminating success on behalf of outgoing Chairman Sevag Derderian whose long-lasting record has been to implement, maintain, and enhance education as a core tenant of the AACCWD.

On Friday, November 8, 2019, the AACCWD Central Council honored Father Shnork Demirjian for his countless years of dedication to the Armenian Apostolic Church and the AACCWD during the convention’s opening-night banquet. The event featured remarks by Diocesan Primate Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, as well as outgoing Chairman Sevag Derderian, and 2019 honouree Fr. Shnork Demirjian. The evening’s attendance was a testament to the wide-spread support of Sevag Derderian and his culmination of over 15,000 traveled miles in his mission to share and promote the education and love for sacred music across the Western Diocese.

Honorees Fr. Shnork Demirjian and Dn. Allan Yeghia Jendian

On Saturday, November 9, 2019, parishioners and church choir members from Southern and Central California, Arizona, and Washington participated in the 13th biennial assembly, lectures, workshops, and masterclasses within the sanctuary of Saint Peter Armenian Apostolic Church. Guest lecturers included: Mr. Sevag Derderian (Director, Armenian Sacred Music Project; Chair MS/HS CalState LA Andriassian Guitar Festival, Competition, & Symposium), Dr. Ronald Sinanian (Resident Organist, St. Peter; Past-Dean, American Guild of Organists), Dr. Christopher Gravis (Professor, California State University Los Angeles).

The assembly meeting chaired by Dn. Allan Jendian incorporated delegates from across the Western Diocese and informed the assembly that Mr. Raffi Mikaelian will be the next Chairman of the AACCWD. Mikaelian will be forming a central council under the guidance of Abp. Derderian within the coming weeks. The 14th biennial assembly and convention will take place in Fresno, California at St. Paul Armenian Apostolic Church. Sevag Derderian was unanimously elected Assembly Chair for the 14th biennial assembly alongside Dn. Allan Jendian and Dn. Dr. Sarkis Mesrobian (Co-Vice Chair), and Ms. Victoria Amran (Secretary).

Mr. Derderian’s lecture focused on the fundamentals of Armenian sacred music within the hearts and lives of the youth of the Armenian Apostolic Church. His masterclass later surrounded a workshop that divvied up participants and challenged them to expand their self and shared interpretations of junior choirs within our parishes. The goal of the masterclass was to think and treat “junior choirs” as a living organization that can be adapted and implemented uniquely depending on the surrounding resources available to each parish. At the conclusion of his class, Derderian announced the launch of his new endeavor the “Armenian Sacred Music Project” (, where he will continue to engrave, score, record, and provide educational materials pertaining to the hymns, introits, and variables of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

Dr. Sinanian presented a lecture on “The Role of the Organ in the Armenian Divine Liturgy”. He provided a concise yet detailed summary overview of the organ as an instrument and how since the adaption of the liturgy set for SATB, it has played an integral role between the fundamental foundation of not only the choir but the deacons and the parish priest. He demonstrated several methods of creating continuity and the finite balance of phrasing, expression, and instrumentation with several selections from Yegmalian’s Divine Liturgy.

Dr. Christopher Gravis provided an inspirational journey into the vocal depths of choral singers as he brought together glorious harmony from masterclass participants. His attention to expression, phrasing, and dynamics allowed for a breath of revitalized energy on behalf of vocalists and their subsequent attention and care for detail in choral music. He commanded the class with sight-singing, pitch, intonation, and choral singing as he introduced technique and passion into his selected repertoire.

On Sunday, November 10, 2019, Archpriest Father Shnork Demirjian celebrated the Divine Liturgy with Sevag Derderian conducting over thirty choir members and multiple hymns by Gomidas in honor of his 150th anniversary. During Repose of the Soul, the AACCWD prayed for those instrumental musicians within the life and legacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church as well as deceased members of the .

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