From the moment the traditional Keghetzi pagharch was danced in, until the wee hours of the morning, some 350 Keghetzis and their friends packed the dance floor to the tunes of 23 Armenian musicians. On Feb. 2, at St. John Armenian Church Cultural Hall in Southfield, Mich., Keghetzis reunited for “Kef Time Keghi” with a Pagharch Dinner and the first-time performance by the Keghetzi All-Star Band to celebrate the first event organized by the Nor Keghi Association.
When it was announced that the “Guest of Honor” had arrived, members of the committee began dancing in the pagharch to the tune of “Hars ou Pesah”—with its words transformed to “Pagharchuh Egav, Egav”—performed by the Keghetzi All Star Band. The excitement was so electrifying and the love of heritage so abounding that many, if not most, joined in the festive dancing.
Richard Norsigian, the president of the Nor Keghi Association Steering Committee, gave welcoming remarks and invited Deacon Rubik Mailian to sing the American and Armenian National Anthems, and Stephan Karougian to sing “Tsainmuh Hnchetz Erzeroumi Lerneren,” as the county of Keghi was located in the province of Erzeroum. Both soloists’ beautiful renditions were received with rousing applause.
Norsigian then explained the purpose of the association and how it came to unify all Armenian political and church affiliations. After introducing the Steering Committee, he invited Mitch Kehetian, who eloquently honored the memory of our Keghetzi forefathers and immigrant settlers in America who furthered the Armenian heritage, in general, and the Keghetzi heritage, in particular. He emphasized how the Nor Keghi Association honors their memory and continues their vision by aiding Nor Keghi in the Republic of Armenia. Kehetian invited fellow Keghetzis to join the association and aid in its endeavors. Rev. Fr. Garabed Kochakian, the pastor of St. John Armenian Church, then offered the blessing.
The traditional Armenian music provided by the Keghetzi All Star Band made it seem as if these wonderful musicians—nearly all Keghetzi—had always performed together. What a tribute to their talent and heritage! The musicians who participated by donating their time included Mark Gavoor (from Chicago, Ill.), Gerry Gerjekian, Tom Gerjekian, Simon Javizian, Michael Kamalian (seven years old) and his father Stepan Kamalian (Racine, Wisc.), Harry Kezelian, Kirk Kuchukian, Bedros Kudanian, Margaret Lafian, Vaughn Masropian, Mike Mossoian, George Nigosian, George Nigosian, Sr., Greg Nigosian, Marc Nigosian, Sandi Nigoghosian, Ara Topouzian, and John Tosoian. Greg and George Nigosian beautifully and flawlessly organized and coordinated the ensemble of outstanding musicians.
Playing all evening in the background were images of historic Keghi, along with silent footage of the Armenian community from the 1940’s through the early 1960’s, filmed primarily in Detroit by the late Israel Nigosian. Grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins were not only with us in spirit, but many of them could be seen in this DVD—a sight to behold. One could see tears in the eyes of many guests as they watched and reminisced. Pictures and materials from Keghi, including from the harrowing experience by David Vartanian who survived the Titanic, were also on display in the lobby.
Although a proud Sepastatsi, Gary Reizian of Uptown Catering rose to the challenge of learning how to make pagharch based on Zaroohy Norsigian’s recipe, which was supplemented by his delicious buffet. Event co-chairs Karen Nigosian and Barbara Norsigian very ably coordinated the entire event.
A beautifully written, designed, and printed keepsake program was given to each guest. It included a brief history of the county of Keghi, demographic information, and a map with a chart of the name of its main town and its 74 Armenian villages, enabling individuals to locate where their family heritage took root. These materials were researched and compiled by Richard Norsigian, while Marty Shoushanian provided the layout and printing. A separate printed keepsake of the “History of Pagharch,” written by Mitch Kehetian, along with the Norsigian family recipe, was also provided.
According to historical documentation, Keghetzi Hyes reserved their feasting on wheat-based pagharch for February’s freezing temperatures in the mountainous Keghi region. The tradition dates back to the ancient Hittite empire. Keghetzis took this tradition with them wherever they migrated.
Hrayr Toukhanian filmed the evening’s activities, which also included the oral histories of several fellow Keghetzis, who shared their personal experiences, as well as the stories told to them. To view scenes of “Dancing in the Pagharch” from the “Kef Time Keghi” event, as well as the printed program and pagharch recipe keepsakes, or for more information about the association, visit www.keghi.org
The Nor Keghi Association’s mission is to sponsor needed projects for Nor Keghi in the Republic of Armenia. Members of the Steering Committee include Mitch Kehetian, Edward H. Korkoian, Alice Nigoghosian, Sandi Nigoghosian, Greg Nigosian, Karen Nigosian, Barbara Norsigian, Richard Norsigian, Martin Shoushanian, Gregory Vartanian, and Esther “Stitch” Vosgerchian. In the keepsake booklet, the committee gratefully acknowledged the donations from both Keghetzis and friends toward the event and to aid in the association’s mission. Donations are welcome and can be made out and addressed to Nor Keghi Association, 29958 High Valley Road, Farmington Hills, MI 48331.