As far as I remember, music always has been part of my life. I have studied the piano at the conservatory as well as all the disciplines allowing me to obtain a complete training, then I pursued singing. I became a lyrical professional singer, without dropping out of the piano, which has always accompanied me in my various musical activities. As a singer, I was given the opportunity to interpret works in Russian. I studied the language but haven’t been consistent enough with my efforts that could have led me to better master the Russian language.
A year ago, my spouse Laurence introduced me to one of her foreign students who had come to our hometown of Reims, France to study. Mari Khachatrian is a young Armenian woman from Saint Petersburg. We met briefly, but because of the pandemic, she was forced to return to Russia. That’s when we decided to talk regularly online in order to practice our respective languages. Our regular online discussions have since gone beyond just practicing foreign languages.
Mari opened me up to Armenia and its people. One day, she suggested I watch the film “Mayrig” by Henri Verneuil (Henri Verneuil, whose birth name is Achot Malakian, arrived in France in 1924 at the age of four, with his parents and his two aunts who survived the Genocide). As I inquired about the film, I discovered that Verneuil made his movie from the book he wrote in 1985. I read it. This testimony moved me, by the tremendous tragedy experienced by the Armenian people, but also by the deep humanity that emerges from this Armenian family, by the palpable love that reigns between its different members. The microcosm of this family of five people reveal all the great qualities of the Armenian people as they appear to me since I have known Mari: a deep sense of belonging to a people and to a culture (despite all the hazards of exile for members of the diaspora), an exemplary fidelity to this identity, admirable courage in front of adversity—no matter how difficult and cruel it may be—an infallible solidarity towards their compatriots, and a sincere humanity and love, which makes one available and open to others.
Mari possesses all of these qualities, and although I do not know her immediate family directly, our discussions have allowed me to perceive the same thing. Mari’s parents obviously raised their two daughters in love for their country and culture of origin, by making sure that they understand and speak the Armenian language without forgetting their integration into Russian society. From my point of view, they have admirably succeeded.
Last fall, when Artsakh endured the events that we all know, I was very touched by those tragic events. And when I learned about the ceasefire agreement and its conditions, I was shocked and outraged. I felt how painful and cruel this was for all Armenians.
I immediately tried reaching out to a friendly French/Armenian non-profit organization to learn how I could support or join a protest. When I didn’t get an answer, I took the initiative and did what I knew best—play music. I chose one of my compositions, a Nocturne for the piano, and I dedicated it to Armenia.
Mari shared her own pictures of Armenia and Artsakh for the tribute video. During this process, Mari helped me discover and understand these historic sites so that I could make a judicious selection and create something meaningful. I believe that all the Armenian people will understand the underlying narrative proposed by the slideshow. The objective of “To Armenia and Artsakh” was to express my sympathy and solidarity with all Armenians.
Since then, I have deepened my knowledge of Armenia and its culture by reading the history of its people, by listening to its music and planning to play and sing it, by learning the Armenian alphabet and by staying informed of the news. The current fate of Artsakh and its inhabitants pains me a lot.
As for our video, I have received positive feedback and gratitude from Armenians who have seen it. I already had in mind that this video could be seen by a maximum of Armenians from Armenia, from Artsakh and throughout the diaspora. I have been moved by this encouraging reception to redouble my efforts so that even more people can feel my support.
I would like to end with a note of gratitude. Thanks to Mari, I gained a clearer understanding of Armenia and its people, as well as its rich culture that I discover a bit more each day. I would also like to thank Mari for her precious help with the realization of our video. Without her, this project would not have been possible. Her pictures and my music have now become indivisible for me. In the same way, I now feel linked to Armenia by an unfailing feeling of brotherhood.