The Naghash Ensemble Armenia

»Songs of Exile« / Hamburg International Music Festival

The Naghash Ensemble
The Naghash Ensemble © David Galstyan

Poetic solace in a foreign land

The Naghash Ensemble blends the deeply rooted spirituality of Armenian folk music with new classical, post-minimal and infectious energy. Three female classical singers and four virtuosic instrumentalists on the duduk, oud, dhol and piano play music based on the words of the medieval poet and Christian priest Mkrtich Naghash.

Naghash was a 15th-century painter, poet and priest who sought to promote inter-religious dialogue. He initially lived on the shores of Lake Van in what is today Turkey, but later moved to Constantinople (Istanbul today) because of religious conflict. There, he processed his experiences of exile in poems that explore the themes of displacement, foreignness and the impossibility of arriving. Subsequent Armenian history is also marked by ethnic and religious suppression, expulsion and violence, culminating in the Ottoman Empire genocide of 1915 in which hundreds of thousands of Armenians were killed or forced into exile.

The grandmother of the Armenian-American composer John Hodian, who is a pianist with the Naghash Ensemble, fled to the USA to escape the genocide. No wonder Naghash’s poems moved him so deeply as a symbol of the fate of his people: »The words leapt off the page and into my soul.« Hodian’s »Songs of Exile« are carried by traditional Armenian melodies and rhythms, embodied by the oboe-like duduk, the oud lute and the dhol and dumbek drums. Combined with neo-classical sounds on the piano and the voices of three female singers – who are trained in western classical music as well as Armenian folk music – there emerges a haunting and unique soundscape.


The Naghash Ensemble Armenia

Hasmik Baghdasaryan soprano
Tatevik Movsesyan soprano
Arpine Ter-Petrosyan alto
Harutyun Chkolyan duduk, shvi
Aram Nikoghosyan oud
Tigran Hovhannisyan dhol, dumbek, daf
John Hodian piano, composer


»Songs of Exile«


Hamburg International Music Festival

Promoter: HamburgMusik

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