July 26, 2012
The Boyajian Youth Choir Directors Program began Tuesday evening at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary with six talented Armenian-American teenagers in attendance.
The program is named in memory of Dr. Socrates Boyajian, composer, musicologist, vioiinist, and long-time organist and choir director of St. Mary Armenian Church in Washington, DC. and an ordained deacon. Dr. Boyajian was active in choir training and in the publication of sacred music books for the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America. He also was a long-time champion of the junior choirs. He died of pancreatic cancer in 2008.
Sponsored by the Sacred Music Council of the Eastern Diocese, the six-day program is directed by Rev. Fr. Hovhan Khoja-Eynatian, Pastor of St. James Armenian Church, Evanston, IL. Fr. Hovhan is a conservatory-trained musician who was a professional music educator until he entered St. Nersess Seminary to prepare for the holy priesthood.
Students of the program, who range from age 11-19, are all musically gifted and have been selected and sponsored by their local church parishes to receive specialized training that will prepare them to become choir directors.
Their daily schedule is intensive, beginning with worship in the Seminary chapel followed a full day of liturgical and musical instruction, Armenian language, and tutoring in choral conducting and the musical interpretation of the hymns of the Divine Liturgy.
Besides Fr. Hovhan, other instructors will include V. Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan, Seminary Dean and Professor of Liturgical Studies; V. Rev. Fr. Simeon Odabashian, Vicar General; Rev. Fr. Karekin Kasparian, Pastor of St. Gregory the Enlightener Armenian Church, White Plains, NY; Rev. Fr. Gomidas Zohrabian, Pastor of St. George Armenian Church, Hartford, CT; and Maestro Khoren Meikhanedjian, Director of Musical Ministries for the Eastern Diocese and Director of the St. Vartan Cathedral Choir.
Participants of the Boyajian Youth Choir Directors Program taking place at St. Nersess Seminary this week.
Dr. Socrates Boyajian
Fr. Daniel Findikyan lectures on principles of the liturgical year of the Armenian Church.
July 6, 2012
The Seminary's annual Deacons' Training Program concluded this week, sending 22 young men back to their parishes to serve the church with new knowledge, refined liturgical skills and uplifted faith.
The participants, aged 14 to 22, came from 12 states as far away as California, Michigan and North Carolina. Some were already quite experienced in assisting in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy and other liturgical services of the Armenian Church, while others were rookies.
Beginners and Advanced Students
"We have two tracks of instruction at the Deacons' Training Program," said V. Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan, the Seminary Dean who has been directing the deacon's program for fifteen years. Most of the participants spend several hours each day practicing the deacons' chants for the Divine Liturgy.
Those who are already fluent and experienced in the deacons' role during the Badarak focus on a special topic that changes from year to year. This year that topic was the Service of the Oil-Bearing Women known as Կարգ Իւղաբերից/Gark Yooghapereets. This service, which is conducted during the Morning Service on Sundays, commemorates the Resurrection of the Lord. Around a matrix of beautiful psalm chants and melodies, it features the reading of one of the Gospel accounts of the women who came to the tomb of the Lord and found it empty.
"Sadly, this ancient and meaningful service is little known in our parishes because the music is challenging and relatively few deacons know it," said Fr. Findikyan. "This is why we wanted to teach it to a new generation of young deacons."
Learning the Armenian Alphabet
Participants also worked on their Armenian reading skills. Nine young men who came to the program without any knowledge of the Armenian alphabet left nine days later able to read from the church's liturgical books in their original language. Others worked to improve their reading fluency.
Serving as instructors and counselors along with Fr. Findikyan were seminarian Levon Asdourian, as well as Deacon Ryan Tellalian, and Sub-deacons Gregory Dalakian, Stan Sheridan, and Ari Terjanian.
Other instructors included V. Rev. Fr. Simeon Odabashian, Diocesan Vicar, who gave a presentation on the deacon's larger role within the church. Rev. Fr. Mardiros Chevian, Dean of St. Vartan Cathedral, showed a recent movie entitled, From Ararat to Zion, and led a discussion on the Armenian community of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. Deacon Sebuh Oscherician, who serves full-time at St. Vartan Cathedral, taught the participants how to make the eucharistic breads known as նշխար/nshkhar.
Rev. Fr. Michael Sorial, pastor of St. Mary and St. Antonios Coptic Orthodox Church, visited the Seminary with two deacons from his parish. They spoke about the ancient Church of Egypt and its historic connections with the Armenian Church.
His Eminence Abp. Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church also visited the deacons, joining them for dinner and engaging in a wide-ranging discussion with them.
Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral
On Sunday, July 1, at the invitation of Fr. Chevian, the participants participated in Sunday Badarak at St. Vartan Cathedral in Manhattan. Before the Divine Liturgy the advanced students assisted in the Oil-Bearing Women Service, putting to use their new-found knowledge of the music and rituals of the service. Later, half the group assisted at the altar for the Divine Liturgy and half joined the Cathedral Choir under the direction of Maestro Khoren Meikhanedjian.
Following the Divine Liturgy, the deacons enjoyed lunch at the Diocese and a shopping trip through the bookstore before heading back to St. Nersess.
His Grace Bishop Vahan Hovhanessian, Pontifical Legate and Primate of the Armenian Church of Great Britain, paid a visit to the Seminary on June 20 during his visit to the United States.
Bishop Vahan is the second alumnus of St. Nersess Armenian Seminary to be elevated to the rank of bishop following His Eminence Archbishop Avak Assadourian, Primate of the Diocese of Iraq. By coincidence, Bishop Vahan is also a native of Baghdad, Iraq, and was ordained to the holy priesthood by Avak Srpazan after completing his studies at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary and St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary.
His Grace was ordained a bishop together with five others in Holy Etchmiadzin by His Holiness Catholicos Karekin II last November.
Obviously filled with emotion as he entered his alma mater, the bishop was greeted by the dean, V. Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan, his old classmate; as well as Rev. Fr. Karekin Kasparian, who was one of their teachers in the mid-eighties. Fr. Karekin is the Pastor of St. Gregory the Enlightener Armenian Church, White Plains, New York, and a member of the Seminary's Board of Directors.
After being updated on the Seminary's work and plans for the future, Srpazan related his own significant achievements in caring for and upbuilding the Armenian community in Great Britain. The bishop has placed great emphasis on upgrading Christian education opportunities at all levels and focusing on the youth. He has also initiated a program of regular Bible Study for the faithful of his diocese. Bishop Vahan earned a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies from Fordham University in New York.
Srpazan also emphasized his intention to develop close ties with St. Nersess Seminary. "Since most of the youth of our diocese are native English speakers, it is only natural that we should look into benefitting from St. Nersess Seminary's various youth and educational programs," said the bishop.