By Georgi-Ann Oshagan
Detroit’s Hamazkayin Armenian Educational & Cultural Society hosted an energetic and entertaining program to celebrate the society’s 90th anniversary and the Detroit chapter’s 50th anniversary.
The event happened earlier this month on October 13 at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center in Dearborn, Michigan. It was held under the auspices of honorary presidents Mr. and Mrs. Herman and Shoushan Hintiryan. Event benefactors were ARF Azadamard Gomideh and Armenian Youth Foundation (AYF), whose contribution was earmarked for new dance costumes.
Six-hundred audience members witnessed the talents of renowned singer Sibil from Istanbul and Detroit Hamazkayin’s own Arax Dance Ensemble.
Detroit Hamazkayin Chapter Chair Shoghere Ourlian opened the program, thanking supporters and those who worked to build Detroit’s Hamazkayin chapter, which was established in 1967. Ourlian also recognized the ARF Azadamard Gomideh, St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church, AGBU Manoogian School, and dance costume seamstresses Verjine Tossounian, Loucine Geukgeuzian, Sara Vorsganian, Rita Kupelian, Shoushig Sarkissian and Anna Tokmajyan.
Hamazkayin Eastern Region Chair Arevig Caprielian traveled from New York to congratulate the organization’s Detroit chapter for its deep community work and long-standing focus on youth and young adult Armenian cultural and educational programs. She praised Detroit Hamazkayin’s chapter executive for paving the way for a bright future.
The night belonged to Sibil and the Arax Dance Ensemble performers. Under the direction of Nayiri Karapetian and co-instructor Dikran Callan, the Arax Dance Ensemble has blossomed over the years into a mature and sophisticated troupe of performers ready to take risks for the sake of authentic performance. For the anniversary program, choreography assistance was provided by Barkev Sanossian of the Hamazkayin Nayiri Dance Group of New Jersey.
Hamazkayin’s junior dance ensembles Hrashk and Houys also performed and displayed their developing talent and growing attention to choreography to a delighted audience.
Before her beautiful performance, Sibil said, “We are across the four corners of the world, but our hearts are together.”
The gifted singer was born in Istanbul and has a background in finance. Her musical career took off in 1999 during the production of Dikran Chookhajian’s musical comedy Lebebiji, where she met composer Majak Tosikyan, who was so inspired by her voice that she became his best Armenian musical interpreter. Sibil has sung at Holy Cross Armenian Church on the Island of Akhtamar; she is also a member and soloist at Sts. Vartanantz Choir in Istanbul.
Sibil commanded a steady stage presence, often backed by the dancers and relevant video images of Armenia. Sibil also performed selections with the piano, guitar and cello trio of Xavier Suarez, Elden Kelly and Lusine Petrosyan, whose accompaniment complimented Sibil’s soprano beautifully, despite the group’s short time practicing together.
Selections included Dariner (Years), Menk Keech Enk (We Are Few But They Call Us Armenian), Sardarabad, Yeraz (Dream), Ari Im Soghag (Come, my Nightingale), Mer Lezoun (Our Language), Desnem Anin Yev Hedo Mernem (Let Me See Ani Before I Die), and many more.
The program reached a high point when young performers and the ARS Zavarian Armenian One-Day School Choir joined Sibil on-stage for a performance of Azk Parabantz (Glorious Nations), bringing song and dance together in a celebration glorifying Armenian history and culture.
“It’s not easy to teach 100 students,” Sibil said. “We need to keep our Armenian language and culture alive in the Diaspora.” It was a fitting sentiment to end an evening celebrating an organization whose very mission is to lift and promote Armenian culture.