THE HOUSE OF VARDAPET
ARTS & CULTURE

THE HOUSE OF VARDAPET

The peculiar character of Komitas has accompanied the Armenian nation for many years. Finally, in 2015, the Komitas Museum-Institute was established as an embodiment of the tremendous respect and veneration for the master. Regional Post talked with the director of the Museum-Institute Nikolay Kostandyan about what has been going on there since the day of its establishment.

Interview : Arshak Tovmasyan    Photo : Komitas Museum-Institute archive

Vardapet’s inkwell

 

The Komitas Museum-Institute opened its doors in 2015. How did it happen and why did it take us this long to establish it?

It was a huge responsibility to start such a project. Usually, you need the person’s house to establish a museum and, basically, Komitas’s house in Armenia was the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin. Another obstacle was the negative attitude towards the character of the clergy in the Soviet period. But the desire to have his museum has always been there. In 2013, during the Board of Trustees meeting of Hayastan All Armenian Fund, a decision was made to establish the Komitas Museum-Institute, and on January 29 of 2015, it became a reality. The museum is located in the park named after Komitas and is built on the foundation of the former Palace of Culture which the Fund presented to the initiative. The “Pyunik” Pan-Armenian Human Resources Development Fund also supported the project and thus, the Komitas Museum-Institute was established.

 

What does it consist of?

It’s both a scientific and a museum institution, there’s a concert hall where we have around 200 events every year, and since 2017, there’s also a Music library which has a 50 years’ history and currently operates within our organization. In the Museum section we have permanent exhibitions but there’s also a possibility for the visiting ones. We ensure the presence of both traditional and contemporary artists at our exhibitions. The theme is mostly Komitas and his inheritance. The research department with its prominent team of experts and young specialists, both in Armenia and abroad, examines the topics concerning the phenomenon of Komitas, as well as the Middle Ages and folklore. We have different publications which are both scientific and non-scientific. Ten of them are already published. We also have periodicals and educational literature published by the institute. Since 2016, we’re a member of the International Council of Museums. In the past 40 years, Komitas’s Museum-Institute was the first museum to be presented at the EU forum for a nomination. In the same year, the educational program of the museum was among the first five nominees and received a prize in Milan for ICOM’s world's best educational programs’ award.

Director of the Museum-Institute Nikolay Kostandyan

 

You already told in a few words about the building. Who are the people behind its construction and design?

The building was designed by architect Koryun Hakobyan, in 1949, as a Palace of Culture and in 2013, architect Arthur Meschian restored it adding a complementary part. The curator and author of the exhibition part is Vardan Karapetyan, an artist who lives in Venice. The designer is an Italian – Alberto Torsello, the general architect of Venice. The building functions as one whole construction. We have almost no stairs so those with physical disabilities won’t struggle to enter the building. They made all efforts to make both the building and the exposition in a modern style on international standards, with innovative solutions, installations and visualizations.

 

How did you collect the museum samples and exhibits?

When we first had the idea to establish a museum, we decided to bring some samples temporarily. The main archive was stored at the Charents Museum of Literature and Art. We currently have a yearly exhibition of 111 samples from there, as well as from the National Gallery and National Library. On the day of the opening, His Holiness Garegin B presented Komitas’s pen-case to the museum. Also, we’re constantly widening our archive fond via donations of samples, purchases, and searches. This year, our researcher Lilit Harutyunyan traveled to Germany via DAAD program to conduct a search in Saxon archives. She discovered 5 of the letters of Komitas. This is a continuous process. We brought some archive materials from France and Italy – mainly the European countries where Komitas traveled. This is the home of Komitas, everybody should be a part of it. Everyone who enters this museum should be able to find his own Komitas here.

 

Komitas’s duduks

 

This year is the 150th anniversary of Komitas, quite a prominent period for the Armenian nation. What is going on at the museum?

Indeed, this year is very important. The Vardaped’s 150th anniversary is celebrated under the auspices of UNESCO. The government created a special working group for the organization of Komitas’s 150th anniversary and the President and the Prime-Minister also got involved. Since the beginning of the year, we have had many concerts, scientific discussions, exhibitions, and publications to present his inheritance and to widen the geography of his music. We had 5 concerts in Yerevan and then the festival continued in Artsakh, with concert programs in Stepanakert, Shushi, and Gandzasar. Then, starting from October 8, a symposium began at Berlin’s Humboldt University where Komitas had studied. Then we had an exhibition at the German National Library and the fest continued in Halle city, at the Martin Luther University, where there is the Mesrop Center for Armenian Studies. What’s peculiar in all these is that with every year, the interest towards Komitas’s music increases all around the world – Italy, Germany, France, and even Japan. Komitas association was established in Japan and we have invited their pianist to Armenia this year.

The Komitas Museum-Institute

 

I know that the museum largely celebrates Komitas’s birthday and it’s not just this year. What’s going on at the museum these days?

Every year, since the establishment of the museum-institute we host the Komitas festival which became international during these years. The music of the modern artists who preserve his music, as well as of the western- European artists with whom he has worked and interacted are also performed during the festival. Since 2015, a symposium has been organized with guests from Armenia, Germany, France, Italy, Russia, Canada, USA, and many other countries. The first symposium opening took place in Yerevan on September 26 and closed on November 8 – his birthday dates according to the new and old calendars. It’s conducted every year on the same dates. In the frame of the conference, we invited musicians and scientists who integrated Komitas’s works to their musical and educational programs teaching students by his methodology. In 2016, the symposium was held in Yerevan and Haghpat where Komitas’s Patarag (Liturgy) was performed. In 2018, Hover Chamber Choir performed Patarag in Harijavank, and the museum- institute conducted the symposium at Sorbonne University. We invited a choir from Strasburg to France, after which they visited Armenia as well. Another prominent initiative was the International Musical forum regarding music education, with participants from France, Germany, Italy, Poland, etc. Also, since 2015, the institute has tried to create a scientific environment based on Komitas’s music and on what was created after him. This can include scientific reports, publications, relevant studies and archive searches at different institutions both local and abroad. We bring our findings to Armenia, create articles and present them to society.

 

After more than a decade, what makes Komitas and his music relevant for the contemporary listener?

During his lifetime, he managed to create an inheritance which went ahead of his time and focused on the future. The fact that we listen to him and present him even today, illustrates that he created his actuality. Many foreign scientists and thinkers called him the founder of new music and the founder of Armenian avant-garde music. He was peculiar and modern by his music and by his thinking, and the existence of the museum proves it. His anniversary is another occasion to illustrate our heritage, our culture, and identity. Every year of Komitas is very important and this year as well, we did our best to direct the attention of international organizations, embassies, etc., to Komitas. For me, as the director of this institution, Komitas’s 150th and 151st and 152nd anniversaries are equally important. Komitas is not valued only on his anniversary. He should be prized every day, every hour, so that one day the whole world gathers around him. We will be able to create that environment. Through him, we can present our history.

The carpet Komitas used during his trips and other belongings

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