WEST MILFORD, N.J. (A.W.)—For the past decade, the YY Sisters trio has been performing classical Armenian songs with a jazz flair. Based in New Jersey, the sisters have performed at venues all across the northeast. Their name comes from a medley of their surname (Yeghiazaryan) and the capital of Armenia (Yerevan). The trio recently released its first album, “Yerek Hatik” (“Three Pieces”), which features three-part harmonies in classical Armenian compositions and spiritual hymns.
Born to artistic parents, sisters Sona, 27, Tatev, 25, and Luciné (Lucy), 21, were surrounded by music and art, particularly jazz, from an early age. “My father, a freelance designer, constantly played his large collection of jazz recordings in his studio while smoking his pipe and carving wood,” recounts Lucy, the youngest YY sister. “My mother, on the other hand, was more of a specialist of the traditional folk and modern music of not only Armenia, but Russia and the U.S. When I say modern music, I’m referring to singer-songwriters that were very reflective of the sociopolitical atmosphere around them, like Vladimir Vysotsky, Ruben Haxverdyan, Nina Simone, and Charles Aznavour,” she tells the Weekly.
The family’s move to the U.S. around September 11th made adjusting to their new lives somewhat of a struggle. But, Lucy says, the alternative could have been more challenging. “There was a sense of liberation and hope for opportunity that was feasible if one worked hard enough,” she explains. Ultimately, the sisters felt confident that their future in music would be enhanced in the United States.
“YY Sisters started as a strictly classical and traditional group, whose repertoire included Bach fugues and pre-written pieces by classical Armenian composers, such as Komitas,” describes Lucy. Slowly, they infused elements of jazz with their classical pieces and began harmonizing simple Armenian folk songs from their childhood into three-part arrangements, which has become their principal singing style. Tatev and Lucy arrange most of the group’s songs and occasionally compose pieces of their own.
Tatev, the conductor and arranger for YY sisters (the “leader,” as she is endearingly called by her younger sister) has her own instrumental ensemble for film and cartoon music, as well. Sona, the eldest, is also a painter, following in her father’s footsteps in art and design. All three sisters agree that it is difficult to work with each other since a lot of their rehearsals turn into perpetual arguments—“almost none of which are musical matters,” assures Tatev. “In general, one must have a lot of patience to work with siblings. At the same time, creating something with such talented sisters is one of the most thrilling and magical experiences, especially onstage,” she says.
Their new album, “Yerek Hatik,” is a compilation of Armenian folk songs, primarily arranged by Tatev. “As a group, we wanted to present a visual representation to the sound. Working with the Naregatsi Art Institute team, we created a booklet that features every song with a drawing by my sister, Sona, and the original lyrics in old Armenian calligraphy by me and my father,” reveals the 21-year-old. “We are all extremely proud of our first album and hope for more to come.”
For more information on YY Sisters, visit Tatev’s website at www.tatevsound.com or Sona’s website at www.naregatsi.org/sona. To purchase “Yerek Hatik,” visit www.CDBaby.com/cd/yysisters.