Western Prelacy Ladies Auxiliary Hosts Lecture-Luncheon in Celebration of Armenian Culture Month

In celebration of Armenian Culture Month, on Thursday, October 19, 2017, the Western Prelacy Ladies Auxiliary hosted a lecture-luncheon at Dikran and Zarouhie Der Ghazarian” Hall under the auspices of H.E. Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, Prelate. The event featured a lecture on Armenian music by Dr. Karenn Chutjian-Presti, member of the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music faculty.

The Prelate was joined by Very Rev. Fr. Torkom Donoyan, Vicar General. Among those in attendance was a surprise guest, renowned Armenian singer Sibil, who had paid a visit to the Prelacy earlier in the day, as well as Executive Council member Mrs. Therese Kemanjian, Hamazkayin Western Region Executive member Mrs. Lucy Joukhajian, members of parishes’ Ladies Guilds, representatives of community organizations, and Chamlian School parents.

The program began with remarks by Prelacy Ladies Auxiliary member Mrs. Vania Babikian, who served as the MC. Following greetings, Mrs. Babikian highlighted the cultural and educational significance of music and song, especially in the children’s lives. She then introduced the day’s speaker, noting that one of the reasons she chose music as a career was to teach Armenian music to Armenian children. Mrs. Babikian gave some background information on Dr. Karenn Chutjian-Presti, who is a pianist, lecturer of music and Armenian music history at UCLA, attended the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and USC, and has taught at an international conservatory in Germany, and added that her love of children and wish to instill love of music in their hearts led her to prepare “My first songbook,” a compilation of Armenian and non-Armenian songs translated into Armenian. She then invited Dr. Chutjian-Presti to deliver her presentation.

Dr. Chutjian-Presti began by noting that her love for Armenian language and music developed as a young child, thanks to her parents and teachers at Vahan and Anoush Chamlian School, adding that her personal and professional experience inspired her to create “My first songbook” as a tool for Armenian mothers and educators. Dr. Chutjian-Presti spoke specifically about the decline in usage of Western Armenian, and its listing as an endangered language by UNESCO, stressing that is absolutely vital therefore to find creative and fun ways to teach our language and culture to the younger generations. Alongside slides, Dr. Chutjian-Presti sang, played the piano, and used physical motions to demonstrate the effect of music and vocal expressions in the context of language. She also spoke of the link between music and language. Knowing multiple languages increases one’s comprehension and makes it easier to learn grammatical and other rules; music too is a powerful and effective method, not only of teaching in an enjoyable manner but also to increase language proficiency, for songs increase language familiarity and aid in learning. Dr. Chutjian-Presti concluded her concise but effective presentation by stressing the fundamental role of music universally, in all cultures.

The program continued after lunch with cultural performances by Chamlian School students. The first group sang the first stanza of Vahan Tekeyan’s “The Armenian Church” and recited the rest, the second group recited Kevork Emin’s “Sasun Dance,” Eric Markarian recited a portion of Barouyr Sevag’s “The Ever-Ringing Belfry,” and Alik Khacherian played a waltz by Chopin on the piano. The cultural program was further enriched with a performance by Sibil. Thereafter, the MC thanked the guests for their attendance and support, and invited the Prelate to deliver his message.

His Eminence began by commending the event, which was organized on the occasion of Armenian Culture month, and a beautiful expression of the enduring legacy of our Holy Translators. He commended Dr. Chutjian-Presti, stating that her eloquent presentation in Armenian is a testament to our Armenian schools and proof of the tremendous role of Armenian schools in the preservation of our language, and stressed that the speaker’s presentation gave an important message for children, youth, parents, and elders alike to utilize music as a means of preserving our mother tongue. The Prelate thanked and commended Sibil, and finally the Ladies Auxiliary for organizing such quality events. Lastly, to the surprise of all, the Prelate invited Dr. Chutjian-Presti’s young daughter to sing one of the songs her mother has taught her. The young child earned the applause of all with her articulate performance, with His Eminence noting that the performance was further proof of Dr. Chutjian-Presti’s important mission. Lastly, the Prelate presented mementos to both the speaker and Sibil.

The program closed with a beautiful rendition of “Cilicia” sung by Sibil and the Prelate’s benediction.

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