Kitka Women’s Vocal Ensemble is pleased to announce three Bay Area concerts next month with renowned Armenian folk singer Hasmik Harutyunyan. Their program, titled Gorani: Love Songs to Lost Homelands, will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the birth of Komitas Vardapet (1869-1935), a composer, folk song collector and an icon in the history of Armenia.
Performances will take place at the Green Music Center’s Schroeder Hall at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, Thursday, October 17 at 6:30 p.m.; at St. Vartan’s Armenian Church in Oakland, Friday, October 18 at 8 p.m.; and at the Hammer Theatre Center at San Jose State University, Saturday, October 19 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets for all events may be purchased online via direct links at kitka.org/events.
One of Armenia’s leading folk singers, Harutyunyan has received international acclaim for her mellifluous renditions of Armenian lullabies and her work with Yerevan’s Shoghaken Ensemble. Her nuanced and passionate interpretations of traditional melodies from historical villages across the Armenian plateau offer a mesmerizing glimpse into a lost world.
Together with Kitka’s eight vocalists, Harutyunyan will perform a program featuring lullabies and love songs, as well as emigrant and work songs, many collected and arranged by Komitas, considered the founder of modern Armenian classical music, and a pioneer in the field of ethnomusicology. Thanks to his painstaking work, countless traditional songs survived the Armenian Genocide.
Gorani is a ritual Armenian song and dance form. Gorani signifies death and resurrection, symbolized by a sheaf of wheat, a perennial crop which returns in the spring each year. Gorani appears often in songs of remembrance and longing for one’s homeland or beloved.
Kitka’s concerts will also celebrate the release of Ororotsayin, Harutyunyan’s new book and CD anthology of 57 historical Armenian lullabies, most never previously recorded. Lullabies documented by Komitas are included in this collection and will be performed collaboratively by Harutyunyan and Kitka in the concert program.
In addition to these concerts, Kitka will host three public workshops in which Harutyunyan will share traditional Armenian dances and songs. Folk dance workshops will take place at Bethany Lutheran Church in Menlo Park, Friday, October 4 at 7:30 p.m., and at Monroe Hall in Santa Rosa on Tuesday, October 8 at 7 p.m. On Saturday, October 12 at 2 p.m., Harutyunyan will lead a vocal workshop focused on Armenian lullabies and love songs at Silk Road House in Berkeley.
Next month’s concert and workshop series marks Kitka’s second major collaboration with Harutyunyan. Their first joint project, Caucasus Connections, a concert tour throughout California and Armenia, took place in 2009 and 2010 under the sponsorship of the Trust for Mutual Understanding and the National Endowment for the Arts. Next month’s activities have received support from WESTAF Tour West and the City of Oakland Cultural Funding Program.
For more information, visit kitka.org.
Harutyunyan draws strength and inspiration from her ancestors in the province of Moush in historic (Western) Armenia, especially her grandmother, Mafo, who sang to her as a child. In addition to songs sung by her family, Harutyunyan learned many of the songs in her repertoire from elder women who had emigrated from Western to Eastern Armenia before or during the Armenian Genocide of 1914-1923, as well as from their descendants and old song collections.
Harutyunyan’s Shoghaken Ensemble has performed throughout Armenia, Georgia, Russia, the United Arab Emirates, Europe and North America. In 2002, the Ensemble was honored to take part in Yo-Yo Ma‘s Silk Road Project. Their music can also be heard on the soundtrack of the film Ararat.
Harutyunyan’s first solo recording, Armenian Lullabies (Traditional Crossroads, 2004), was praised as “The best Armenian recording worldwide” (The New York Times).
Harutyunyan passes her cultural heritage on to the next generation as director of the Hayrik Mouradyan Children’s Traditional Song and Dance Ensemble. Of her lifelong commitment to the art of the Armenian lullaby, Harutyunyan writes: “Lullabies guide a person throughout their entire life. In the beginning, they are sung to you, later, you are the one who sings… in this way, the cosmic melody of love and affection continues forever.”
Support our coverage by becoming a digital subscriber.