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Mother of Light - Armenian hymns and chants in praise of Mary
Isabel Bayrakdarian (soprano)
Ani Aznavoorian (cello)
Coro Vox Aeterna/Anna Hamre
Siroun Kojakian and Marie-Jean Zaatar (sopranos)
Dr Ishkhan Baryrakdarian (percussion)
*with the trio of Bayrakdarian sisters
All tracks arranged by Serouj Kradjian
rec. August 2015, First Congregational Church, Fresno, California, USA
DELOS DE3521 [61:58]

Soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian is the originator for this project which was her fulfilment of the promise she made a couple of years ago in prayers offered to save her mother’s life when she committed to produce a collection of hymns and chants written in praise of the Virgin Mary. She has brought together 18 of these that amazingly cover a period ranging from a composer who died only 30 years ago back to one who died well over 1500 years ago! Of course it is almost impossible (I say almost because I don’t know) to be sure that anything written that long ago would sound as it is interpreted here but suffice it to say that those about which we can be more certain (13th-17th century) are not so very different in their sound world to those written much nearer our time. They are all connected by a sound that is intoxicatingly ethereal. The occasional use of a cello or percussion accompaniment works very well but it is the unaccompanied voices that are so wonderfully evocative as well as incredibly restful, just the thing to effect a detox for the mind after a stressful day. Isabel Bayrakdarian is the key to this for her voice is an extraordinary instrument that is crystal clear with pinsharp diction and I say this despite the fact that I know no Armenian once I located the place in the text, which is not just given in English but is transliterated into Latin characters, I could follow the words so clearly an Armenian speaker would have no difficulty in doing so. Her accompanying singers, whether the vocal group Coro Vox Aeterna, her two sisters or the other two sopranos, give great support while the cellist, Ani Aznavoorian, also of Armenian origin, has a wonderfully rich tone which so perfectly complements the voices and her brother provides percussive support using instruments that are traditionally used in Armenian church services adds yet another layer to the proceedings when called for.

It is an interesting fact that hymns and chants that in several instances go back so long into what can truly be called ‘ancient history’ are the mainstays of today’s Armenian Orthodox church worship for I certainly know of no such parallels in other strands of Christianity and it shows the strength of undiluted tradition. I wouldn’t try to pick out any of these mesmerising items out for singular praise as they are all equally magnificent in their affecting power.

Anyone who enjoys the experience of the voice as instrument cannot fail to find this issue a fascinating and captivating listen. If you find the other-worldly sounds of Russian or Bulgarian Orthodox Church choirs with their rich basses addictive then the correspondingly high voices of these Armenian voices will weave their magic just as powerfully translating into a heady brew that will keep you spellbound.

Steve Arloff

Pourvarov tapor (Censer procession) [0:13]
Bagdasar TBIR (1683-1768)
Zartir Nazeli (Arise, Graceful One) [4:27]
Anonymous (medieval)
Khni Dzarin (Frankincense Tree) [3:52]
Ara BARTEVIAN (1902-1986)
Mayr Yev Gouys (Immaculate Mother) [2:58]
Hampartsoum LIMONDJIAN (1768-1839)
Hamad Kez (Incomparable One) [4:57]
Anonymous (medieval)
Varaneem (Burdened with Sins) [4:35]
Anonymous (medieval)
Avedis Kez Mariyam (Good Tidings to You, Mary) [4:34]
St. GREGORY OF NAREG (951-1003)
Diramayr (Plea to Mother of God)* [5:06]
Diramayrn (Mother of the Lord) [2:50]
Anonymous (medieval)
Badjar yev Sgizpn (Cause and Origin) [3:47]
Movses KHORENATSI (410-490)
Zandjareli Looso Mayr (Mother of Light) [2:39]
Sharaganner (Sharagans from Holy Week) [2:46]
Gomidas VARTABED (1869-1935)
Asdvadzadzin Yergnayin (Divine Mother of God) [1:30]
Anonymous (medieval)
Zgousoutyount Ko (O Pure God Bearer)* [1:26]
St.Nerses SHNORHALI (1102-1173)
Aysor Joghovyal (The Saints Are Gathered) [2:51]
Vartan AREVELTSI (1198-1271)
Antaram Dzaghig (Eternal Flower) [2:56]
Anonymous (18th-19th century)
Panin Hor (Word of the Father) [4:10]
Anonymous (18th-19th century)
Oor es Mayr Im (Where Are You, My Mother?)* [6:16]



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