Mirak-Weißbach-Stiftung

Support for Musical Education



The Importance of Music in Armenia

Volksmusik

A folk music ensemble in a restaurant in Gyumri.

Everyone who knows Armenians, their culture or their country knows that music has played a special role since time immemorial. The saying goes that in Yerevan there are more pianos than television sets. Whoever rents a furnished apartment in Armenia can hope to find a piano, even a grand piano, among the furniture. There are pianos also in public places, available to anyone who wishes to play. In one bookstore in Yerevan we saw how customers and visitors could sit down and play for hours on end.
Buchhandlung

In a public bookstore in downtown Yerevan a piano invites visitors to play and practice.

Now there is even an upright piano sitting in the international wing of the Zvartnots airport in Yerevan. On the piano there are scores and a sign inviting interested travelers to make music.
A very special place in Armenian cultural and music history is reserved for the priest, poet and composer Komitas (1869-1935). Following three years of study in Berlin, including at the Humboldt University, he returned to Armenia in 1899. He travelled for years from village to village throughout the provinces of the country, listening to shepherds and farmers, who sang while working, and to mothers singing to their children. He heard love songs, wedding songs and funeral laments, epic pieces and polemical ditties. What had been passed down over centuries he accurately preserved, transcribed in his own notation system. His position in Armenian music history is comparable to that of Bela Bartok and Zoltan Kodaly in Hungarian culture.
The extremely rich musical culture in Armenia flourishes not only in the churches and big, famous conservatories and academies. Indeed, there is a considerable number of large and small music schools spread out across the country. Even small towns of a few thousand inhabitants have a music school, where children early on or during school years can receive music instruction.


The First Projects 2013

Der_Bluethner

At a concert on October 3, 2014 the Weissbachs were able to see – and hear – for themselves that the new Blüthner is held in high esteem.


A grand piano, yes even a Blüthner grand,
for the new music school in Gyumri

The first big project that the Mirak-Weissbach Foundation undertook was to provide the new music school Nr. 6 “Octet“ in Gyumri, Armenia’s second largest city and capital of Shirak province, with a new grand piano. It was to be an instrument produced by Blüthner, a Leipzig based piano producer with a long tradition. Our contact to this school and its director, Harutyun Asatryan, dates back to 2008, when we visited it with a group from the USA. At that time, students were having classes in a temporary structure made of corrugated iron, because the old school had been completely destroyed by the earthquake that ravaged the area in 1988. It was striking to see the commitment displayed by the teaching staff who managed to continue music classes over 20 years despite the catastrophic material limitations. When the Weissbachs returned in 2013, the situation for the school had changed radically. In the interim, a collective effort undertaken by Mediamax, the Fund for Armenian Relief (FAR) and the Australian organization “Do Something”, had financed the construction of a beautiful new building. The new school building was to be ready by September, when it was to be officially opened. A large shipment of musical instruments had arrived from Canada to equip the school. The only one that was missing was a concert piano for the recital hall. It was Director Asatryan’s hope that a Blüthner concert piano could be organized, an instrument produced by the firm that enjoyed a longstanding, positive reputation in Armenia.
After lengthy deliberations, and encouraged by the generous cooperation of Dr. Christian Blüthner-Haessler, a decision was taken to donate the piano to the school. It arrived in fact a day after the opening on September 23, 2013 in Gyumri.

See report and pictures ....

Musical Instruments and Materials
for the Music School in Oshagan


In the course of the same 2013 trip, we visited the music school in the small city of Oshagan. This is located halfway between Yerevan and Etchmiatzin and particularly famous as the final resting place of Mesrop Mashtots, the inventor of the Armenian alphabet in the early 5th century. This school too had just moved into a new building and begun classes. Here we were able to contribute some musical instruments and teaching materials that friends in Germany had donated, and present them to the director.

We learned then that the director hoped to build a media library for the school, with CD’s, DVD’s and sheet music. In the course of 2014 a first shipment of 25 CD’s with recordings of classical works will be sent to Oshagan.
See report and pictures ....


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The Weissbachs visiting the music school in Oshagan in 2013, with pupils, the director, teachers and Margarit Piliposyan of FAR.





Projects 2014


Germany tour for Lusine Arakelyan

1Lusine-ErloĢˆserkirche

"Lusine Arakelyan at her concert on June 1, 2014 in the Church of the Redeemer in Berlin.


At the opening ceremony of the Gyumri music school, we had the opportunity to meet Lusine Arakelyan and hear her sing. She performed several arias during the concert at that festive event. We were struck by her powerful voice and animated musical delivery. Although she was already a trained singer who had received her diploma and been awarded several prizes and had been active as a soloist at the Ghazaros Sarayan Opera studio at the state conservatory in Yerevan since 2008 --, she wanted very much to continue her musical education in Germany.
In Spring 2014 she contacted us with the news that she had received several invitations for auditions and performances in Germany and Austria, and hoped to find some financial support. We made arrangements to cover her travel costs from Yerevan to Berlin and return.

On June 1, 2014 we attended a concert by Lusine Arakelyan in the Church of the Redeemer in Berlin, held in commemoration of the Armenian national holiday (May 28). She successfully concluded her German tour and plans to return for further auditions in the near future. Following her visit, she received an invitation from Poland to go on tour there in the autumn with Polish musicians. See report under News

2Lusine-Warschau

"Volksmusik" Ein Volksmusik-Lusine Arakelyan at her her first solo concert in Warsaw



The New School in Argavand

Argavand is a small city of about 8000 inhabitants, located just outside the capital Yerevan on the way to the airport. It too has a brand new music school that was reconstructed from a dilapidated structure. We visited the school during our 2014 trip and were received with typical Armenian hospitality: the students and staff had arranged a concert, followed by homemade sweets, coffee and drinks, and the director gave us a report on the school’s activities. On departure, we received a “wish list”for the school: they need keyboard instruments, an accordion and violins for beginners.
Go to the Social Projects...


Projects 2015


Lusine Arakelyan Sings in Italy and Spain

In September 2015 Lusine Arakelyan participated in master classes and the Montserrat Caballé International Singing competition. The Fourth Master Class in Opera Singing (Canto Lirico) were held in Trevignano Romano (near Rome) under the direction of Italian soprano Stefania Bonfadelli and Maestro Simone Maria Marziali. The Mirak-Weissbach Foundation sponsored her air fare from Yerevan to Rome and Barcellona, and return.
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Lusine Arakelyan in Trevignano Romano



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Lusine Arakelyan and Stefania Bonfadelli.