Komitas Vardapet

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Drawing of Komitas from a USSR stamp, 1969

Soghomon Gevorki Soghomonyan - Komitas Vardapet (also Gomidas Vartabed) (September 26 1869 in Kütahya, Ottoman Empire - October 22 1935, Paris, France), was an Armenian priest, composer, choir leader, singer, music ethnologist, music teacher and musicologist, known as the founder of modern Armenian classical music.[1]

He was born into a family whose members were deeply involved in music and were monolingual in Turkish. His mother died when he was one and ten years later his father died. In 1895 he became a priest and obtained the title Vardapet (or Vartabed), meaning a priest or a church scholar.

He established and conducted the monastery choir till 1896 when he went to Berlin, to the Kaiser Friedrich Wilhelm University. Here he studied music at the private conservatory of Prof. Richard Schmidt. In 1899 he acquired the title doctor of musicology and returned to Echmiadzin. He traveled extensively around the country, listening and recording details about Armenian folk songs and dances performed in various villages. This way he collected and published some 3000 songs, many of them adapted to choir singing.

His major work is Badarak (Divine Liturgy), still used today as one of the two most popular musical settings of the Armenian Church liturgy.

He was the first non-European to be admitted into the International Music Society of which he was a co-founder.

On April 24, 1915, said to be the day when Armenian Genocide officially began, he was arrested. The next day he was put on a train with 180 other Armenian notables and sent to the city of Çankırı in northern Central Anatolia, at a distance of some 300 miles. His good friend, Turkish nationalist poet Emin Yurdakul, the authoress Halide Edip, and the U.S. ambassador Henry Morgenthau intervened with the government and, by special orders from Talat Pasha, Komitas was sent back to the capital. In autumn 1916, he was taken to a Turkish military hospital and he moved to Paris in 1919 where he died in a psychiatric clinic Villejuif in 1935. Next year his ashes were transferred to Yerevan and buried in the Pantheon.

The Yerevan State Musical Conservatory is named after Komitas. There also a world famous string quartet named after Komitas.

Other websites[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. "Biography of Komitas". komitas.am. 2004 [last update]. http://www.komitas.am/eng/brief.htm. Retrieved 6 February 2011.