Described as "the sound of ancient Armenia reinvented for the 21st century" by Tigran Mansurian, The Naghash Ensemble combines "the earthy spirituality of Armenian folk song, new classical music, contemporary post-minimalism with the energy of rock and jazz".
On December 2, 2017, three brilliant female vocalists and some of Armenia’s finest instrumentalists on duduk, oud, dhol and piano will be joined by SYOA to present the world premiere of American-Armenian composer John Hodian’s “Songs of Exile” for The Naghash Ensemble and String Orchestra.
Based on poems by the medieval Armenian mystic poet and priest M’krtich Naghash, “Songs of Exile” is a profound musical meditation on man's relationship to God from the perspective of a monk forced to live in exile for many years.
Notes from the Composer:
“The idea for the Naghash Ensemble came when I heard Hasmik Baghdasaryan singing medieval Armenian spiritual music at Garni Temple. The beauty of her voice combined with the acoustics at Garni remained in my mind for days and I vowed to write something that would use this ancient sound in a new way.
It took several years to discover the right text. When I came across a fragment of the 15th century poet and priest M’krtich Naghash, the words leapt off the page and into my soul. Naghash was a priest during a time of great hardship for the Armenian people. Under the Ottoman Empire, prejudice and religious persecution conspired with warfare and plague to make life difficult and often brutally short. Naghash ran afoul of the local Muslim authorities, was forced to flee his homeland and became a “Ghareeb” (a stranger or wanderer without property or possessions). He was the first poet to transcribe his thoughts while in exile. Being of Armenian descent, raised in Philadelphia, New York, Berlin and now living in Yerevan, the rootless plight of the Ghareeb is something I (and perhaps many Armenians) can relate to.
Though a great scholar and high-ranking clergyman, Naghash wrote poetry as a means of reaching out to the ordinary people of the Armenian community. His poems were often an outgrowth of his sermons. They implore one to “Take stock of one’s life. Don’t form attachments to the ‘things’ of this world. Nothing here endures.” The words are both profound and simple, conversational and poetic and while philosophical, were addressed to the common man of his time and are as relevant today as they were in the 1400's.
While composing “Songs of Exile” the instruments were chosen intuitively but in retrospect they are a perfect complement to the words as they contain formal elements such as piano and strings balanced by Armenian folk instruments such as dhol, duduk and oud. After touring for the past 5 years with the seven members of The Naghash Ensemble, I began rewriting the piano part for string orchestra and felt liberated to expand upon the many polyrhythms and contrapuntal lines that had been part of my original impulses in making this music. I feel this new version represents the ideal expression of the music.”
"Composer John Hodian brings the poems of the 15th century Armenian priest M’krtich Naghash to life. The songs are unmistakably Armenian, but out of this world.” — Armenisch-Deutsche Korrespondenz
“Part folk music, part classical and profoundly moving.” — NPR
"The Naghash Ensemble transports the listener with shimmering melodies and mystical contrapuntal lines. The singers have an intensity that reveals the music's spiritual depth." — Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
02 DECEMBER, 2017
Aram Khachaturian Concert Hall
Music by: John Hodian
Texts by: Mkrtich Naghash
Hasmik Baghdasaryan (soprano)
Tatevik Movsesyan (soprano)
Arpine Ter-Petrosyan (alto)
Emmanuel Hovhannisyan (duduk, zourna)
Aramayis Nikoghosyan (oud)
Tigran Hovhannisyan (dhol, doumbek)
Karen Ananyan (piano)