I picked up a CD not too long ago. It was called "Divine Liturgy" and it was sung/chanted according to the compositions of some guy name Komitas. I loved the music, it was truly amazing, so I decided to find out more about this guy named Komitas, this is what I found:
GOMIDAS VARTABED - KOMITAS (1869- 1935)
One of the most renowned Armenian Churchmen and musician of modern times was Gomidas Vartabed, also known as Komitas. He was born Soghomon Soghomonian in Kutaha, Asia Minor in the year, 1869. His life had an interesting turn of events, when at the age of eleven, he was orphaned, and at a young age he was sent to a Seminary in Etchmiadzin to study. Because of his singing prowess, he decided to teach music at the Seminary after he completed his studies. In 1896, Soghomon was ordained a monk or “apegha” of the Armenian Church. A few years later he was ordained a “Vartabed”, and as is the practice in the Armenian Church assumed his new name “Komitas”(or Gomidas).
Komitas learned a great deal of music from the monks and continued to study music with the famous composer Kara-Mourza, which eventually led Komitas into both secular and religious music. Komitas continued to study music, and in 1896, he was awarded a doctorate degree in musicology. He later returned to Etchmiadzin as a choir director, and Instructor of music at the Seminary.
Komitas wrote over three thousand songs in Armenian, Arabic, Kurdish, and Persian, and also contributed significantly to the modern Armenian Badarak. His main contribution was to rediscover Armenian folk music. He spent years traveling throughout the provinces and visiting many villages listening to native songs and dances, and making notes of them for further analysis. His work in arranging and collating the folk music he had collected over the years eventually became excellent songs for chorus music, and made the public aware of the existence of true Armenian music. In addition to the folk music, Komitas arranged the entire music of the Divine Liturgy (Badarak) of the Armenian Church, for male voices.
The internationally known priest was the first non-European to be a member of the International Music Society. Komitas performed concerts in Paris, Geneva, Berne, Constantinople, Venice, and Alexandria. It is interesting to note that in the spring of 1915, during the imprisonment of leaders of the Armenian community, Komitas too was taken into custody. Through the efforts of Henry Morgenthau, Ambassador from the United States of America, and the Turkish poet Mehmet Emin Yurdakul, who admired Komitas’ work, Komitas was released.
After the April 24, 1915 massacres of the Armenian people by the Turks, he succumbed to mental and physical anguish and never fully recovered. Komitas lived as if a walking corpse for the next twenty years. The revered holy man died in Paris on October 22, 1935 in a mental hospital. One year after his death his ashes were transferred to Yerevan and interred in the Yerevan Panthenon. In the 1950’s his manuscripts were transported from Paris to Yerevan where they were being studied and published
Komitas Vartabed: Genius of Armenian Music
Komitas Vartabed, whose name at birth was Soghomon Soghomonian, was born in 1869 at Gudina in Asia Minor. Orphaned at 11, he was sent to live in the monastery at Etchmiadzin, the Holy See of the Armenian Apostolic Church. His talent as a singer brought him to the attention of Catholicos Kevork IV, who determined that the youth should be nurtured and encouraged. In 1893, Soghomon entered the sacred priesthood of the Armenian Church. At his ordination, in accordance with Armenian Church tradition, he was "reborn" and given a new name, Komitas. Two years later, he was elevated to the rank of Vartabed. ( a "learned man" of the Church)
A talented musician, Komitas traveled to Berlin to continue his musical studies at the conservatory and at the Frederick Wilhelm Imperial University. In 1899 Komitas Vartabed Soghomonian graduated with the degree of Doctor in Musicology. Komitas Vartabed's major contributions to Armenian musical tradition are his collection of folk music, and his Badarak (Divine Liturgy) of the Armenian Church. Komitas had become influenced by the secular music common in the various regions where Armenians lived and by overly European harmonization. In an exhaustive effort to restore the tradition melodies of the Liturgy, he traveled widely to rural Armenian villages in search of the most elder priests; he reasoned that their chanting would be closest to the original melodies of the Badarak. His efforts to restore the "true" sounds of the Armenian liturgical music tradition reach us today in the form of his Badarak, most notably the version written for three-part men's chorus, his personal preference.
It is, however, in his works based on simple folk melodies that one recognizes Komitas' genius. Using simple musical elements he is able to create works of great depth and sensitivity that both challenge performers and enthrall listeners. On April 24, 1915, the day marking the beginning of the Armenian Genocide, Komitas Vartabed was imprisoned in Constantinople along with nearly 200 other intellectuals. Miraculously, he survived and was released after a period of imprisonment. His collected works and research of Armenian folk music were partially destroyed and left in disarray. This tragedy, coupled with the suffering he witnessed among his people, was more than he could bear. Physically and emotionally weakened for the remainder of his years, he was unable to complete his life's work. Komitas Vartabed died in Paris on October 22, 1935.
Thanks to the efforts of Armenian musicologists and musicians Komitas' music continues to be researched and resurrected. Komitas Vartabed is acknowledged to be the premier Armenian composer and musicologist of his time. His works, both secular and liturgical, continue to be performed throughout the world.
I really enjoyed his inspiring story, and his contribution to Armenian music is truly amazing.
It is the best CD that I own!