Antoine Terjanian's letter 10: A wedding and a concert

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Monday, October 28, 2002
by Antoine Terjanian

What a week end!

On Saturday I was invited to a wedding. Remember the lady (Seta) from the building across who let me go up on their roof to photograph Ararat on a clear day and then sent up her daughters. Well it turns out the two girls were her grand-daughters. She wanted me absolutely to meet her young son, Viktor Hambartsoumyan`s (of the Pyurakan observatory) right-hand man (an astrophysicist who has to his credit the discovery of 2 stars). He is now working in the Canaries, but would be coming to Yerevan for his nephew’s wedding on the 26th. I expressed interest in the wedding, so I was invited. At 1:45, a third Grand-daughter, 18 year old Diana met me at Prospect & Toumanian and we walked to this beautiful hidden old church “Sourp Zoravor Asdvadzadzin” (Holy Strong Mother of God)… Seemed to be a favorite for weddings. Literally a wedding every 10 minutes, the next couple waiting in line 10 meters from church door with their guests. I was amazed how there was no traffic jam or parking problems in the “Bak” where the church is located. Beautiful trees surround it and of course some beggars, but not too annoying. What a relief to have a short Armenian religious ceremony… “intérêt commercial oblige”…. Two priests were in charge and a few sacristans, one ringing the bells every time newlyweds were created. The traditional “to protect” for the groom, and “to serve and to obey” for the bride, in sickness and in health” had to be heard clearly, otherwise the priest would ask them to repeat. Amazing how a line of 50 congratulators can pass so fast in front of the altar, then off to find the cars and get-out in a cortège in the streets with horns blaring.

We went to the groom’s parents’ house for the wedding reception. A single dwelling up above the Hayasdan superstore (Komitas area). Neighbours were waiting and the mother-in-law ready with two fresh loaves of Lavash, some wheat grains, a cup of honey, some candy, some coins, and 2 ceramic plates on the floor at the door step. She first kisses them both and puts the lavash on their shoulders (so they never miss food). Then they are asked to smash each of the plates with their foot (to break away difficulties), then she gives them a spoonful of honey (to have sweet relations) then she spread on their heads the wheat grains (plenty and fertility) and the candies and coins (symbols of sweet wealth to come to them). Then they are welcome to an outdoor sit-down meal in the back yard, at the precise moment they light the BBQ wood fire in the corner. There were friends and relatives and a “personality”, the director of the Erebuni Museum, who stood-up and made traditional toasts at least 15 times. Everyone and his uncle made toasts; it didn’t matter if you did not listen… The groom is a techie, so he had his computer programmed to play MP3 music in the order he wanted… which we had to turn-down for the toasts. The guys in charge of the BBQ had trouble getting the fire going, so I went-out on the street in my suit and picked-up a few empty corrugated card-board boxes or pieces thereof and brought them over to their delight… So while everyone else was having a feast, they were busy preparing the BBQ, till they brought them their own varieties of food and drink so they proceeded to get drunk and have a ball.

Soon the dance started (they didn’t wait for the bride & groom to open the ball). They mainly did the Caucasian single dance step, from time to time they would form a line and do the kotcharee step or yerek-ou-mek. The food was kept being refilled on the table, the drinks and the toasts. Then the bride threw her bouquet, and the groom threw her crown to the male guests. Then they cut the cake (both together holding the same knife. Several times the father of the groom would dance with the bride with visible emotion and kind of embarrassment. The mother of the groom was wonderful, so lovingly supportive of her husband, running the show and making sure everyone was served and comfortable. I left around 9 to go to Sarah’s party.

The party was in honor of Artyom and Anahid who had just gotten jobs with “Douleur sans Frontières” in Gyumri. It was the usual crowd except for 4 Peace Corps guys and gals from Gyumri. We looked at some digital photos and I left by 11:30 with Jason and Anna.

On Sunday I went to Vernissage and bought a glass cutting and knife sharpening tool for 1000 drams. It seems to be doing marvels at the demo!

Then in the afternoon, I was invited to a ceremony, at the Sayat-Nova music institute (just behind the Opera, near Sayat-Nova’s statue. The ceremony was for the 70’s birth-day of Villie Mogatsyan, the former director of the Institute, died 5 years ago. Angela Nigoghossyan, the young violinist who plays in the National Chamber Orchestra and in the Komitas Quartet, took me there. He used to be her prof, and she used to be terrorized by him. He used to yell and scream a lot, but no physical violence (perhaps to the boys, but definitely not the girls. It was a ceremony filled with humor, recalling events that happened to Prof Mogatsyan at different points of his career, interspersed with beautiful duo’s, solos of piano and violin music pieces, including Debussy’s Clair De Lune. There were also some projections of Videos and photos of Mogatsyan’s career. Very short speeches. He was sent by the Soviets to create the Cuba conservatory, and there were many hilarious anecdotes of his stay in Cuba. They showed a skit about the “hantess” they had when he returned from a stage in Greece (after independence) Where some of his students played Zorba the Greek on the piano while coming on stage to make a presentation, then 3 of them came-up on stage carrying each a cardboard tray of white eggs, then they suddenly threw the whole carton of eggs on the audience... it turned-out they were plastic eggs... It was fun, an example of the kind of ceremonies that aren’t boring. Mogatsyan’s wife was in the audience. She had refused to sit on the front row. They asked her if she wanted to say a few words. She stood-up and thanked everyone who made this wonderful evening a reality and said Mogatsyan would have enjoyed it. She was soo nice.

On Tuesday Oct 29. Angela gave me 2 tickets for their Chamber Orchestra pre-premiere concert at the Baronian theatre. So I gave one to Rhoda. Tickets were 2000 drams (1st 5 rows) then 1000 drams, then 500 then 250. When I got there, I waited for Rhoda, she came later with a group from Arlex and they had extra tickets in the first 5 rows (mine was a bit cheaper, so I joined them. The Chamber Orchestra was just marvelous. I love the violin, the viola and the cello in general, but these people satisfied everything I felt like at the moment. They played Armenian and classical pieces and usually put in a new piece from a living composer who happened to be in the audience and was invited on stage to everyone’s applause. A memorable evening. Thank you Angela and Rhoda!