Successful Inaugural Youth Choir Workshop!
The inaugural Yn. Diane Chevian Memorial Youth Choir Workshop took place July 7-10 at the seminary and was a great success thanks to the capable staff who led the program and the 18 eager teenagers, ages 13-17, who attended from throughout the Eastern Diocese.
The youth choir workshop was directed by Fr. Haroutiun Sabounjian, a 2018 St. Nersess graduate and pastor of the Armenian Church of the Holy Resurrection in New Britain, CT. The daily workshops were led by Fr. Mamigon Kiledjian, Eastern Diocese Instructor of Sacred Music, and Louise Yardumian, Choir Director at St. Hagop Armenian Church, Pinellas Park, FL. Emily Terjimanian and Subdeacon David Marottolo served as counselors while Yn. Lucine Sabounjian assisted as support staff.
Collectively, the participants had a sincere interest in learning the liturgical hymns of our Divine Liturgy and began the session with choral team-building activities, including forming a kazoo chorus to learn how to play popular tunes in unison; “digital bell choirs” to learn to play the hymn “Soorp Asdvadz” using a digital handbell app; and singing in rounds by writing new lyrics to the song “Row row row your boat”.
The daily workshops included learning the Yegmalian Badarak in 4-part harmony; singing techniques; how to follow conductor cues; and vocal exercises. There was also a small group “Sharagan Study” during the conference on the hymn Soorp Asdvadz. “It was my great honor to participate in this inaugural Yn. Diane Chevian Choir Workshop. These children were a blessing to work with and showed great resolve in learning their music in parts,” shared Louise Yardumian. “Their attention in class showed maturity beyond their ages. They listened intently, practiced hard and happily sang during our rehearsals and Sunday Holy Badarak.”
Bishop Daniel Findikyan, former primate of the Eastern Diocese, spent a day with the teenagers and lectured on the hymn Kreesdos ee mech. He also blessed two new icons in the St. Hagop Chapel which includes the great female saints of the Armenian Church: Sts. Hripsime, Gayane, Khosrovitukht and Ashkhen. These icons were donated anonymously in memory of Yn. Diane Chevian and Yn. Zabelle Gdanian.
Each day, everyone participated in morning Matins and evening Vespers serving as deacons, choir members and readers. On Sunday morning, Badarak was celebrated by Fr. Haroutiun where the participants sang as the choir members. Following Divine Liturgy, there was a special Hokehankisd held for Yn. Diane Chevian.
“With this being the first year of the workshop, the staff and I had no idea what to expect, but to our pleasant surprise we were greeted with a talented and passionate group of faithful liturgical musicians who were eager to dive into our rich musical heritage,” proclaimed Fr. Haroutiun Sabounjian. “I want to thank the instructors, staff and participants of this wonderful program for sharing their enthusiasm for serving our Lord. After Sunday’s Badarak, I was left with the comforting assurance that Yn. Diane would be proud of these young choir members and the program establish in her memory.”
The choir workshop was funded through the generosity of those who contributed In Lieu of Flowers to the seminary on the occasion of the passing of Yn. Diane Chevian. Yn. Diane was the beloved wife of Fr. Mardiros Chevian, dean, and mother of daughters Alexandra and Kristina. She was a dedicated choir director for many years at St. Mesrob Armenian Church in Racine, WI, as well as the primary instructor of the former St. Nersess Liturgical Music Program, which took place during several summers. Donations to the Memorial Fund are still being accepted by clicking here.
“It was truly inspiring to know that there are so many young people interested in learning the music of our Church,” reflected Fr. Mardiros Chevian. “This program is the continuation of the work that my wife, Yn Diane, was committed to during her lifetime and the fulfillment of her dream.”
Many thanks to Zovig Ashjian and Lauren Kayaian who spearheaded the preparation of all the meals throughout the program, with the assistance of Andrew Kayaian, Robert Kayaian, Lisa Kouzoujian, and Dawn Papalian. They were all honored to assist out of respect for Fr. Mardiros and Yn. Diane.
Plans are underway to continue this youth workshop for years to come. Participants will have the opportunity to build relationships with choir members from across the country and will have access to regular one-on-one virtual training sessions with Fr. Mamigon to reinforce their learning and progress their musicianship throughout the year. Click here for videos and photos from the workshop.