Komitas: Earth and Song


A choir and a pottery studio inspired by the life and work of the great Komitas Vardapet will operate in the Gyulagarak community of Lori province.

On November 26th, the concluding event of the second phase of the “Komitas: Earth and Song” program took place in Vardablur village, along with the opening of the ICA choir and pottery studio.

The Gyulagarak community, and in particular the Vardablur village, are closely connected with the name of Komitas. In 1899-1901, Komitas Vardapet, accompanied by one of his beloved students of Gevorgyan Seminary and a native of Vardablur, Avet Ter-Poghosyan, paid a visit to the village. There he was hosted by priest Ter-Yeghia Zohrabyan and wrote down the “Lori Plough Song” and the “Kali” song.

The second component of the project, pottery, is also associated with Komitas and his birthplace, Kütahya, which was the center of ceramics art at the time of the Ottoman Empire. Moreover, the Gulagarak community, which has natural clay resources, used to house a tile factory a century ago. Based on this history and this tradition, ICA initiated the “Komitas: Earth and Song” program.

The project started in 2021, when ICA implemented the initial phase of the project with the support of the German Federal Foreign Office International Relief Fund. In 2023, ICA renovated, furnished and equipped with its own funds the studio space provided by the Gyulagarak community in the administration building of Vardablur village.

The continuation of the “Komitas: Earth and Song” program was implemented within the framework of a grant provided by the RA Ministry of Education and Culture. As a result, 44 teenagers from Vardablur and Gyulagarak learn pottery and choir singing. The grant made it possible to provide the children with the necessary materials and tools and invite quality specialists to Vardablur to work with the youth.

After the New Year's break, the program will resume and expand. Throughout the project, potters-artists Vahram Galstyan, Armine Hovhannisyan and Anush Ghukasyan worked with the children of the community. And in the spring of 2024, within the framework of the “Culture moves Europe” residency program, Italian, French and Dutch experts will be staying  in Vardablur to share their experience and vision with the young potters and implement creative projects.

The event held on November 26th was very exciting for both the community and the ICA team. The program was full of art and guests. The children of the choir sang in the studio, and the “Nareg-Gyumri” choir – whose conductor, Arpine Manukyan, also works with the Vardablur choir – performed spiritual songs in the church of the Holy Mother of God of the village. Merujan Soghoyan, the priest of the church and spiritual pastor of the Gugarats diocese, also welcomed this initiative, reminding that singing has always accompanied Armenians both at times of work, joy and sadness. He said that a man who sings is a good man, and quoting the poet, expressed hope that “Horovel” will one day return to the field, will descend from the stage to the land where he originated.

Two lectures were held in the newly opened studio. Musicologist, Komitas State Conservatory lecturer and Komitas Museum Institute researcher Astghik Martirosyan presented the work and legacy of Komitas, and art critic, YSU lecturer Satenik Chukaszyan told about the pottery art and famous masters of Komitas' birthplace Kütahya (Ottoman Empire).

At the end of the event, children and adults participated with great enthusiasm in the open pottery class. The students of the workshop acted as assistants, helping the participants to create their first works.

Nazareth Karoyan, the ICA director and head of the project, said on this occasion: “Our investment in community art is of strategic importance for our Institute, and this program is its manifestation.”

The head of Gyulagarak community, Khachik Vardanyan, said: “We agreed with the community council to provide the program a bigger space so that more children can attend. In 2021, there were 12 children in the studio in Gyulagarak. And now 44 children attend classes in Vardablur."

Both ICA and the community leadership want choirs and studios to operate in the seven villages of Gyulagarak community in the near future.

Nazareth Karoyan mentioned that if the project of establishing choirs in each of the seven in the community succeeds, the program could evolve into a festival, a concert hall, and even an open amphitheater.