The idea for this project materialized during a very dark moment in my life. A couple of years ago I made a desperate plea to God to spare my mother’s life, and in return, I promised that I would sing the praises of His mother, Mary. This recording, which includes music written from the 5th century onwards, is entirely devoted to Armenian hymns dedicated to Mary, mother of Jesus Christ, and is the fulfillment of my promise.
I grew up singing in the Armenian Apostolic Church. My mother was the choir director, and she often let me join the adult choir, even though I was too young to contribute effectively. That particular music, with its exotic melismas, Eastern melodies, and long legatos, formed the early foundation for my musical education, and continues to be my inner compass, by which I find and stay on my personal path in life.
Researching the repertoire for this recording yielded an exciting discovery of rare gems and a treasure trove of hymns dedicated to Mary. In Armenian Church doctrine, Mary has a primary place of honor, because it was of her and by the Holy Spirit that God became incarnate. She is seen as the image of humanity fully obedient to God, and she’s ultimately sanctified by accomplishing God’s will.
For this recording, these hymns are arranged for soprano, female choir, and cello accompaniment. It is no coincidence that most of the performing musical forces are women: what better way to use the collective feminine power to exalt the virtues, sorrows, beauty, and glory of Mary, the most celebrated woman of all time.
This recording includes three types of hymns from the Armenian sacred music tradition: “sharagan” (hymn), “dagh” (ode) and “megheti” (canticle). Sharagan refers to a sacred hymn sung during liturgy, having specific musical patterns and restrictions. Sharagans are distinguishable by the specific musical keys in which they’re written, referred to here as modes unique to the ancient traditional Armenian singing system. Dagh and megheti are sacred songs, which have been accepted as additions to the sung liturgical repertoire, further enriching an already-rich tradition. The long melismatic vocal lines and brevity of text characteristic of megheti further distinguishes it from dagh.