Karakashian Presents Different View of Komitas’s Life

By Meghri Baronian

Dr. Karakashian with the organziers
Dr. Karakashian with the organizers

RIDGEFIELD, N.J.—On Oct. 5, as part of the Month of Culture, the Hamazkayin Armenian Educational and Cultural Society of New Jersey, along with Sts. Vartanantz Church, Rev. Hovnan Bozoian, and the Board of Trustees proudly introduced Dr. Meline Karakashian to present her story of Komitas. The event took place at Sts. Vartanantz Armenian Apostolic Church in Ridgefield.

The program began with a piano performance by Kalina Mesrobian, who played Edward Mirzoyan’s “Sad Waltz” and Gregg Nielson Chopin’s “Nocturne.” Her opening performances were very moving and set the tone for the rest of the event. Talin Mavilian, the master of ceremonies, then introduced Karakashian.

Born in Beirut, Lebanon, to parents who were survivors of the Armenian Genocide, Karakashian received her early education from the Nshan Palanjian Djemaran. She has lived an interesting life, having traveled to many countries, raised a family in New Jersey, and continued her education at Rutgers and Seton Hall University, where she received her Ph.D. in psychology. After the earthquake in Armenia in 1988, she traveled back and forth helping the victims of the earthquake and trying to help the country recover. Today, she continues to travel to Armenia in the hope of helping her country with its struggles.

Talin Mavilian invited Karakashian to begin her slideshow presentation, and to present Komitas’s life from a different point of view. Komitas, whose birth name was Soghomon Soghomonian, was born in 1869 in Armenia to a family deeply involved in music. At a young age, he lost both his parents and was looked after by his grandmother. In 1881, Catholicos Gevork IV chose Komitas to be educated at Etchmiadzin Seminary. He was a very clever child. When asked by the priest what he was doing in Etchmiadzin if he did not know how to speak Armenian, he replied saying that he knew how to sing songs in Armenian. He impressed the Catholicos with his singing talent and later graduated in 1893 and became a monk. Two years later, he became a bishop. Komitas helped establish and conduct the monastery church choir until he went to Berlin in 1896, where he enrolled in the Kaiser Friedrich Wilhelm University. There he studied music and in 1899 received the title of Doctor of Musicology. After returning to Etchmiadzin, he traveled throughout the country to many villages, where he listened and recorded Armenian songs that were performed. Later, he worked in Istanbul, where he established yet another choir. On April 24, 1915, he was arrested along with many other Armenian notables, and was sent away. He returned to the capital, but was soon sent to a hospital due to a psychiatric breakdown. He was later sent to a psychiatric clinic in Paris, where he stayed until his death in 1935.

Following her presentation, Karakashian answered questions from the audience. Mavilian then invited Rev. Hovnan Bozoian and the chairwoman of Hamazkain New Jersey to the stage. They gave a proclamation to Dr. Karakashian for her services to our Armenian community and Armenia.

Refreshments were served at 7 p.m. and the program began at 7:30 p.m.

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