part of track
God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with
him in the ark, and He sent a wind over the earth and the waters receded. Now
the springs of the deep and the floodgates of the heavens had been closed, and
the rain had stopped falling from the sky. The water receded steadily from the
earth. At the end of the hundred and fifty days the water had gone down, and on
the seventeenth day of the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains
After his descent from Ararat, Noah first stepped on
the land which over centuries became the first Christian country. Christianity
has been the Armenian state religion since 301 AD, 79 years before it became the
official state religion of the Roman Empire.
The history of Christianity in Armenia refers to the
time when Apostles St. Thaddeus and Bartholomew preached in Armenia around 100
AD. According to the legend, at the end of the 3rd century King Trdat III began
persecuting Christians in Armenia. He executed a group of thirty-seven Christian
virgins who had fled to Armenia to escape Roman persecution. The leader of this
group was Gayane, who, along with Hripsime is considered one of the founding
saints of the Armenian Church. After committing this criminal execution, King
Trdat became insane. The sister of Trdat, Khosrovidoukht, had a dream that the
persecution of Christians should stop. She told her brother that he would be
cured if he would release Gregory the Illuminator from the Khor Virap prison.
The King agreed and Gregory restored Trdat's mental health. In 301 AD King Trdat
declared Christianity the state religion of Armenia.
Later, Gregory had a vision in which Christ descended
from Heaven and struck the earth at the town of Vagharshapat with a golden
hammer. Following this, Gregory had another vision of a great Christian temple
rising from the ashes. Gregory built the church of his dream. He renamed
Vagharshapat into "Echmiadzin" (which means "the Descent of the
Only-Begotten" in Armenian). Because St. Gregory brought the light of
Christianity to the Armenian people, he is called "the Illuminator"
and considered as the patron saint of the Armenian Church.
In 374, the Armenian Church became independent from the
Church of Caesarea. In the fifth century, St. Isaac the Great and St. Mesrob
invented the Armenian alphabet and translated the Bible and the liturgy into
Armenian. The Armenian Church did not attend the Council of Chalcedon, but
repudiated it in 555. That action separated them along with the rest of the
monophysite churches from the Eastern Orthodox Church. The separation lasted
until the monophysites and the Orthodox reconciled in the twentieth century.
Throughout their entire history, Armenian Christians
have been under almost constant persecution, first by Persians, then Arabs, and
then Turks. In 1915 over one million Armenians were killed by Turks and many
more were enslaved and taken to Turkey (the population of Armenia in 2003 was
3.8 million people). When Armenia was a Soviet Republic, Christians were
persecuted by the communists.
The celebration of Christmas was never familiar in
Armenia. Instead Armenian Christians celebrate the Nativity at Epiphany. Unlike
most Eastern Christians, they make the sign of the cross from the left to the
Sacred Music in the Armenian Church
The earliest known examples of Armenian
liturgical chant are dated in the 5th century and credited to St. Mesrob, an
inventor of the Armenian alphabet, and Movses Khorenatsi, a historian. The roots
of Armenian Church music lay in Jewish biblical tunes, Zoroastrian ritual
melodies and pre-Christian folk songs.
Armenian sacred music is the most ancient among
Christian musical cultures.
The most popular genre of Armenian sacred music was the
sharagan, a canonical hymn. Eventually, these hymns were compiled in the
sharagnots (or "book of sharagan"), and were canonized by assigning
specific sharagans to particular days in the church calendar.
Traditional Armenian music is distinctive not only in
its melodies, but also in structure, which differs from the Western forms.
Armenian church music is monophonic, consisting of a single melodic line without
support of harmony. It is traditionally chanted by men alone, without
accompaniment by musical instruments. The hymns are built on melody-modes, which
is different from the major and minor scales of the Western music. The rhythm of
the Armenian chant is irregular, asymmetrical, and organized in complex cyclical
structures, instead of the 'square'/4+4/metric division of the Western music.
Most ancient chants were written in prose. The
versified hymns became common much later. Gradually a correlation of notes to
syllables changed from syllabic (1:1) to pneumatic (1-2-3-4 : 1) and later to
melismatic (extended melodic patterns to a single syllable). Unlike Western
church music which exploits a variety of large-scale forms, Armenian sacred
is much more laconic and compact in dimension.
Only at the end of the 19th century Armenian musicians
eventually adopted the Western composition technique. Interestingly enough, that
it was an Italian composer, Pietro Bianchini, who first set the music of the
Armenian Divine Liturgy for four-part mixed choir and published it in Venice in
1877. Makar Yekmalian was the first Armenian composer who wrote the Armenian
liturgy in a four-part setting. It was published in 1896, in Leipzig. In
Calcutta, 1897, Amy Apcar arranged the melodies of the Divine Armenian Liturgy
for four-part choir.
Komitas Vartabed used Apcar's setting as a model for his own. In the beginning
of the 20th century he managed to decipher khazes (ancient Armenian notation)
which made it possible to perform many Armenian chants. Komitas was still
working on his version (arranged for a cappella male choir) in 1915, but in the
wake of the Armenian Genocide he was never able to
complete it. The Komitas liturgy was eventually published in Paris in 1933,
after editing by his
student Wardan Sarxian.
Ara Bartevian, Egdar Manas, Parseh Atmaciyan and Khoren
Mekanejian are contemporary Armenian composers who created their own versions of
the Armenian Divine
This album features selected works of the Armenian
sacred music of the 5th-13th centuries performed by the Armenian ancient music
ensemble "Taragan". "Taragan" was founded in 1981 and along
with vocal soloists includes an instrumental ensemble. Currently
it is one of the leading Armenian musical groups which tours and performs
throughout the world. Ervand Erkanyan is the artistic director and conductor of
Armenian Sacred Music of the 5th-13th Centuries
Mesrop Mashtots (5th c.) Great is Thy Charity 3:13
2. Stepanos Syunetsi (5th c.) Pharaoh with His Chariots 3:39
3. Sahak Partev (5th c.) Thee, Who Saved Three Adolescents 3:02
4. Movses Khorenatsi (5th c.) Wonder of Birth 3:04
5. Ananiya Shirakatsi (6th c.) Dove, Granted from Heavens 4:08
6. Sahak Dzoraporetsi (7th c.)
With the All-Conquering Banner 3:37
7. Komitas Akhtsetsi (7th c.)
Devoted Souls 4:53
8. Grigor Narekatsi (10th c.) Eyes Like Sea 6:07
Nerses Shnorali (12th c.)
9. New Flower 4:03
10. Creator of Adolescents 2:54
11. Let Us Recollect Gods Name in the Night 3:18
12. Christ Reaching out his Hands 3:43
13. Bright Morning 3"08
14. Confessed with the Seraphs. Song of the Deceased 2:04
15. Human Race Rejoice. Song of Resurrection
16. Vardan Areveltsi (13th c.) You, Who Adorned Yourselves 3:42
Nerses Lambronatsi (13th c.)
17. Christ is Risen 2:10
18. Heaven's Armies Triumph
Total Time - 65:30
Armenian Ancient Music Ensemble "Taragan".
Ervand Erkanyan, Artistic Director and Conductor.
Soloists: Greta Antonyan, soprano; Vardeni Davtyan, soprano;
Ovsanna Nalbandyan, mezzo-soprano; Grachya Niksalyan, tenor; Ruben Telunts,
Recorded in 1990 by Vetr.
© 1990 Gramzapis
© 2002 CDK Music
Cover "Galvary" by Nikolai Ghe.
Design by Evgeni Kostitsyn