WATERTOWN, Mass.—Hundreds celebrated the 150th birth anniversary of famed “All-Armenian Poet” Hovhannes Toumanyan on Tuesday night.
“Every time a child opens a book written by Toumanyan, he comes back to life and accompanies him or her through their journey of life,” said Hamazkayin Boston Chapter Vice Chair Verginie Touloumian during her opening remarks at the Armenian Cultural and Educational Center (ACEC).
Like many that night, Touloumian recalled childhood memories learning about Toumanyan, including his famous poem “Shoun ou Gadou” (“The Dog and the Cat”). But she said Toumanyan is unique in that he is one of the few writers whose works evolved with his reader. “We read about the tragedies, so he moves on through life with us and is always accompanying us,” said Touloumian.
Sponsored by the Hamazkayin Boston Chapter, the event—”Celebrating a Legend”—showcased the renowned writer’s unique ability to inspire generations young and old. The program began with a short film titled “Our Literary Crossroads,” a depiction of the struggles and successes in creating and maintaining an active Armenian literary life post-genocide. Then, Meghedi Youth Choir, led by Dr. Marina Margarian Kavlakian, astonished the crowd with their melodic musical performance to written works by Toumanyan. “Meghedi” Youth Choir member Izabell Tenekedzhyan said her favorite part of performing was understanding more about Toumanyan’s music. “The primary goal of Meghedi Youth Choir is to keep the highest standard for our Armenian music,” said Dr. Kavlakian.
Tenekedzhyan told the Weekly she also learned about Toumanyan at school under the instruction of St. Stephen’s Armenian Elementary School (SSAES) teacher Ardemis Megerdichian. “We must instill a passion for our culture in our youth so that our culture and literature lives within them,” said SSAES Armenian teacher Ardemis Megerdichian, whose fifth grade students captivated audience members with their recitations of Toumanyan’s works on Tuesday night. “The most important place for a child to learn about culture and literature is at school. Therefore, Armenian education plays a critical role in giving them that love of our culture and literature” added Megerdichian. Longtime Hamazkayin member Raffi Zargarian also offered electrifying recitations from a selection of Toumanyan’s records.
This year, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) honored the writer, poet and translator in its calendar of anniversaries of eminent personalities. “Honoring the lives and unforgettable work of these prominent figures is the very first step in preserving our history, language, and ultimately our culture in its entirety,” said Hamazkayin Eastern US Regional Executive member Varant Chiloyan. “It’s easy to forget the hopeful songs, deep poems and beautiful art that have shaped the Armenian people. It’s up to each new generation to continue organizing and attending events like this to keep alive the fire that our ancestors sparked inside us all.”