Armenian News Network / Groong January 31, 2008 Entertainment Wire by Sahan Arzruni NEW YORK, NEW YORK Zankel Hall, the mid-size auditorium at New York's Carnegie Hall complex, is ideally suited for classical chamber music concerts. On the evening of Saturday January 26, 2008, however, a different sort of group, the Shoghaken Ensemble from Armenia, was spotlighted; it featured eight musicians who played native instruments, sang and danced. It appears that Carnegie Hall Corporation has decided to regularly invite such ethnic groups to showcase their artistic ability in a house designed basically for "serious" music. A few months ago another ensemble performed Turkish and Kurdish music there. Earlier, it was Kohar, also from Armenia, the remarkably popular spectacle, that thrilled audiences. Shoghaken Ensemble was founded in 1991, right after the country's independence. It is among the best known and most active native groups whose purpose is to retain and propagate the indigenous folk music of historic Armenia. The folk troupe was at its best in works designed for the instrumental ensemble, such as Zurni Tringi, a ceremonial dance music; Unabi-Marali-Shushiki, melodies transcribed and originally set for piano by Komitas; and Tamzara, the well-known dance tune. Vocalist Aleksan Harutyunyan's rendition of Sayat-Nova's Kamancha was touching and his give-and-take with kamanchist Vardan Baghdasaryan was inspired. Arguably the most accomplished among the musicians was kanonist Karine Hovhannisyan, who performed Khachatur Avetisyan's Tokat with zest. Although the presentation was done professionally, it would have been highly desirable for an outsider to take a critical look at the group's performance practices. For example, rather than coming forward in front of a microphone, it would have been more effective had the performers with a solo part stayed in their places, perhaps standing, underlining the idea of an ensemble. The dance numbers were rather poor, especially those by Mr. Baghdasaryan whose movements were simply awkward. Dudukist Gevorg Dabaghyan emphasized the agility of the instrument at the expense of the tone; I missed the soulful sound of the king of Armenian instruments. Other musicians in the group included Hasmik Harutyunyan, vocals and oud; Levon Tevanyan, various wind instruments; Grigor Takushyan, duduk; and Kamo Khachaturian, dhol. It's good to have groups such as Shoghaken visit the West to show off their creative constructs. It is hoped that they are also exposed to alternate ways of presenting similar material by kindred spirits in order to improve their artistic undertaking. It was a sold-out house. -- Master pianist Sahan Arzruni enjoys an international career, and is also known as a composer, ethnomusicologist, producer, teacher, lecturer, writer, recording artist and broadcasting personality.
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