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SIRVART S. KARAMANUK (née Kalpakian) (Սիրվարդ Գալբագեան Գարամանուկ) was born on December 1, 1912, in the Üsküdar district of Constantinople (Istanbul) and died on October 19, 2008 in Istanbul at the age 95. She began studying the piano at age five under the tutelage of her older sister Arminé. She attended the Dayyan and Esayan Schools and studied at the Istanbul Municipal Conservatory, where she took classes in piano, music theory, music history, and related subjects; she graduated in 1939. Impressed by her superior musical gifts, her teachers—among them Stepan Papelyan, Liko Amar, Cemal Reşit Rey, Adnan Saygun, and in particular, Ferdi Statzer— suggested that she take private lessons in composition (a subject not taught at the conservatory). As a result, Karamanuk worked with Lazar Levy and Jean Roger-Ducasse for a short time.
Karamanuk’s first compositions, written in the 1940s, were for the piano. She gradually broadened her musical interests, composing numerous art songs, choral works, large-scale compositions for chorus and orchestra (Akhtamar and The Song of Bedros Turian), pieces for string quartet, a children’s operetta (Tomorrow’s Artists), children’s songs, and arrangements of liturgical chants. Karamanuk’s compositions have been performed in more than a dozen countries and are recorded by well-known soloists and large ensembles. In 1999, Yerevan’s Aram Khachaturian Museum organized a concert featuring her works; a year later a similar concert took place in the main auditorium of the performing arts center in Armenia’s capital. In 2003, her art songs were featured in a concert in Yerevan; the following year, Akhtamar, a film based on her synonymous symphonic poem, was premiered in the capital city’s Moscow Theatre. Her works have been published by the State Museum of Literature and Art of Armenia, the Armenian General Benevolent Union of America, and the Turkish-Armenian Teachers Association of Istanbul.
Karamanuk’s biography is included in the International Who’s Who of Women and several editions of the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. She was honored with a pontifical encyclical and the St. Sahag-St. Mesrob Medal from the late Catholicos of All Armenians, His Holiness Vazken I; a pontifical encyclical and the St. Mesrob Mashtots Medal from the Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, His Holiness Aram I. She has also received a pastoral letter and a celebrative medal by His Beatitude Mesrob II, the Armenian Patriarch of Istanbul. In 2004, His Excellency Robert Kocharyan, President of Republic of Armenia, issued a proclamation of gratitude to Sirvart Karamanuk, for her enduring contributions to Armenian culture.