Saturday, January 20th was a chilly winter day in Northeast Ohio. It brought heavy snow for much of Cleveland, but it also filled our hearts with a special warmth and excitement as we looked forward and counted down the hours to meeting Armfolk!
By 5:00 pm, Fr. Hratch had already arrived at St. Gregory of Narek Church and opened the doors to welcome the group. The president and secretary of the Armenian Cultural Garden, Suzelle and Dina, and the host families; namely, the Grigoryans, Baghdasaryans, Gevorgyans, Minasyans, Yeranossians and Avitsians, started arriving in the snow-covered parking lot one after another.
Finally, it was around 5:30 pm when the RCF van pulled into the parking lot and as soon as its passengers stepped out, a cheerful meet and greet started to happen, where many friendly handshakes, hugs and kisses were exchanged.
After a short stop inside the church, where Fr. Hratch prayed for and blessed the members of the group, the six host families drove home with their guests. They were to return to church the next morning to participate in Badarak. Afterwards the group went to the “Rock & Roll Hall of Fame” for a tour of the famous landmark, courtesy of Erina Vartanova and Rouben Sagatelov, who generously donated the tickets for the entire group.
From there, the group arrived at Solon Center for the Arts (SCA) at 3:00 pm to change and rehearse for the concert, which was scheduled for 4:30 pm.
Excited spectators started arriving at SCA, as early as 3:00 pm and as far as Columbus, Ohio!
More than 200 people, including Armenians, non-Armenians, adults and children, attended the concert. The mayor of Solon, Edward Kraus, was the honorary guest of the evening. Surprisingly, people were still trying to purchase tickets, even as the show was about to begin. In the end, unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately!) we ran out of seats, so some ended up watching the concert standing up!
The event opened with a brief opening statement from ACG president and continued with the MC, who provided a short introduction before each of the numbers, which were performed with great skill and passion on the part of the performers and enjoyed immensely on the part of the crowd!
The beautiful and captivating sounds of the dhol, played by 15-year-old Nikolay Karapetyan; the duduk, played by 16-year-old Tatul Hambardzumyan; and the qanun, played by 21-year-old Mariam Hovnanyan, enchanted the audience. Some even confessed that it brought tears to their eyes! The 9 dancers-one male and eight females- ranging from 12 to 21 years old, were extremely graceful on their feet. The costumes were colorful and beautiful.
After the concert, our very own little ones graced the stage to hand red roses to our performers and a bouquet of roses to the group’s Director/Choreographer, Vergine Grigoryan, as a token of gratitude. Needless to say, we couldn’t depart without taking a few group photos to eternalize the memory of such a successful event.
We then proceeded downstairs to the gallery, to enjoy a light buffet of home-made Armenian sweets, cheese and crackers, fresh fruits and hot coffee, coordinated by Qristine Baghdasaryan. Thank you to the ladies who donated the baked goods and all the men and women, who helped in setting the table before the show.
The concert lasted a little over an hour, however it would be fair to say that the impression it made on most of us, will last a lifetime. For most Armenians present at the event, watching those young artists -who are cultural ambassadors for Armenia- was like watching our very own children on stage. We all felt a strong sense of pride because of them, as their presence and performance ignited an otherwise diffused national spark in us. It reminded us of something we all love dearly and miss deeply in the hustle and bustle of the vast diaspora we live in.
With your continued and unwavering support, The Armenian Cultural Garden was able to donate the proceeds of the event to Reunite Cultures Fund (RCF) as per our agreement with them. A special thank you goes out to Anton and Hasmik Yeranossian, for covering the cost of renting SCA’s theatre for the concert.
I would like to thank the following organizations and businesses for advertising the event. Without them we wouldn’t have been able to spread the word about the concert, far and wide enough. They include St Gregory of Narek Armenian Church; Armenian Radio Show on WJCU 88.7 FM; Jubilee Mini Mart; Ararat Martial Arts, Cleveland Violins and Arslanian Bros.
I’d also like to thank ACG Secretary, Dina Ohanessian-Demirjian and Treasurer, Razmig Pounardjian, for their endless patience and care in handling the ticket sales and answering the countless calls, texts and e-mails they received regarding the tickets.
Thank you to the rest of the ACG Executive Committee for participating in the numerous meetings, responding promptly to my countless e-mails and providing their valuable insight, feedback and advice every step of the way.
I believe more than anything else, we proved to ourselves that our community deserves and appreciates having more efficient, well-organized and high-quality cultural events, not only to educate our kids about our culture, but also to quench our own thirst for it. Thank you to everyone who supported this important mission. The Armenian Cultural Garden is grateful for your cooperation, kindness and generosity!
Suzelle Aghamalian-Avitsian, President
Armenian Cultural Garden