On Sunday, November 8, the internationally renowned Kitka Women’s Vocal Ensemble and singer Hasmik Harutyunyan from Yerevan’s Shoghaken Ensemble performed “Armenian Lullabies and Songs of Longing” at the Fresno State Concert Hall.
The Kitka Ensemble includes singers Caitlin Tabancay Austin, Leslie Bonnett, Briget Boyle, Shira Cion, Janet Kutulas, Elizabeth Setzer, and Lily Storm. The concert was co-sponsored by the Fresno State Armenian Studies Program and the Department of Music.
The Concert was organized into various thematic sections: Work Songs, Lullabies, Songs of Childhood, Songs of Longing, and Wedding Songs. Inspired by the deep Armenian musical tradition, the songs presented examples from most of the regions of historical Armenia. Hasmik Harutyunyan was inspired by her grandmother Mafo, from the historic region of Moush, Armenia. Harutyunyan has carefully collected the various lullabies from old women who had emigrated from historic Armenia following the Genocide and also from their descendants. Harutyunyan was in San Francisco to teach and give workshops on Armenian lullabies and other songs. She then taught Kitka some of the songs for the Concert.
The talented singers performed in traditional Armenian costumes that exemplified the preservation of ethnic traditions. The Horovel medley exemplified the simple but beautiful melodies sung during labor in the fields. The traditional lullabies represented various types of cradle songs sung by the women to their babies. Composer Komitas inspired various songs of childhood, including a version of Hayr Mer [The Lord’s Prayer] that has rarely been heard. The songs of longing reminded listeners of the long history of Armenian emigration and the emotions that immigrants felt about their family and homeland. The wedding songs concluded the concert, highlighting the traditions associated with weddings. In a beautifully recreated wedding scene, student Armen Melidonian was chosen to portray the groom and participated in the scene. The beautiful costumes and songs transported listeners into a different world.
Hasmik Harutyunyan can be heard on the newly released “Shoghaken Ensemble from Armenia,” available at http://www.traditionalcrossroads.com/. Kitka was founded in 1979 and is dedicated to producing concerts, recordings, and educational programs in the Eastern European vocal traditions. They are internationally renowned for their artistry and mastery of the traditional techniques of contemporary Balkan, Slavic, and Caucasian vocal styling.
Fans are also waiting for the upcoming release of Kitka’ Cradle Songs, their ninth CD and companion songbook, featuring the gentle rhythms, lilting melodies, and poetic texts of traditional lullabies. These melodies were gathered from gifted folk singing mentors, families and friends, and musical archives. Cradle Songs has eighteen tracks, includes musical transcriptions, English transliterations and translations, pronunciations guides, and maps.