Armenian Music in Canada
Beginning about 1900, but mostly from 1950 to 1965, some 20,000 Armenians emigrated to Canada from the Middle East.
Beginning about 1900, but mostly from 1950 to 1965, some 20,000 Armenians emigrated to Canada from the Middle East. Their musical activity in their adopted country has centred around the Armenian Apostolic (Gregorian) Church and ethnic clubs where choral and folk singing occur for celebrations of the mass and the commemoration of national tragedies such as the Turkish massacre of Armenians, 24 Apr 1915. One such club, the Association culturelle arménienne 'Hamazkain' of Montreal, celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1978. Among Canadian-Armenian musicians who have achieved recognition are the violinist Gerard Kantarjian, the teacher Maryvonne Kendergi, the conductor Raffi Armenian, and the children's song writer Raffi Cavoukian. The contralto Selma Keklikian has sung with the MSO and the Opéra du Québec and for CBC TV and radio. The baritone David Varjabed founded and conducted two choirs in Toronto: the Ani Choir (1974-7); the Komitas Choir (1977-). His recording of Armenian classical and popular songs with the Armenian State Radio SO was released in 1984 by Discopaedia (Jubal 5005). In 1981 in Toronto Edik Hovsepian formed the 120-voice Hamazkain Choir, which performs folk, popular, and classical Armenian music. In 1980 Harmik Grigorian founded L'Atelier Grigorian, which in 1991 had record stores in Toronto, Oakville, and Ottawa. The pianists Norair Artinian of Montreal and Anahid Alexanian of St Catharines, Ont, are active as recitalists and in chamber music. Beginning in 1987, several young Soviet Armenian composers have taken advantage of a liberalized emigration policy and moved to Montreal, among them Petros Shoujounian and Mihran Essegulian. Also in Montreal, Raffi Niziblian in 1987 formed the pop-fusion sextet Anoosh, which includes songs in Armenian in its repertoire. Violinist Peter Oundjian of Toronto joined the Tokyo String Quartet in 1981, and the french horn player David Ohanian became a member of Canadian Brass in 1986 after playing with the Boston SO for a number of years. The world-renowned Zildjian tradition of cymbal making established in 17th-century Armenia has been carried on in Canada at the Meductic, NB factory of, in turn, Azco Ltd and Sabian Ltd.
Injejikian, Hasmig. 'Armenians in Ontario - the musical repertory of early Armenian settlers,' Polyphony, vol 4, Fall-Winter 1982
Sarkissian, Margaret. 'Armenian musical culture in Toronto: political and social divisions in an immigrant community,' M MUS thesis, U of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 1987
- 'The politics of music: Armenian community choirs in Toronto,' Ethnomusicology in Canada, ed Robert Witmer, CanMus Documents 5 (Toronto 1990)