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50th Anniversary Celebrations in California
AMAA/LARK present Bach's St. John Passion
Dedicated to the 50th Anniversary of Haigazian University.

On Saturday Evening March 5, 2005, the pews of the beautiful sanctuary of the Glendale Presbyterian Church, in Glendale California, were filling quickly way before the appointed time of 7:00 P.M. In fact some had come an hour early to hear a pre-concert lecture by musicologist Karenn Chutjian, to enhance their understanding and enjoyment of the piece to be performed. The audience welcomed with applause the 86 member choir as they started to take their places on the stage, where the orchestra members were already positioned with their instruments. The program started with words of welcome by Dr. Nazareth Darakjian, chairman of the organizing committee, who acknowledged the presence of His Eminence Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian of the Western Prelacy, Mr. Andy Torigian Executive Director of the AMAA, and Dr. Hrair Aharonian president of the AMAA. Dr. Darakjian thanked all the participants in the project and in particular Maestro Vatsche Barsoumian for his endless dedication energy and patience. He then introduced Mrs. Joyce Abdulian, a hard working member of the Women?s Auxiliary of Haigazian University who spoke briefly about Haigazian University. Mrs. Abdulian emphasized the important role that Haigazian University has played in the Armenian diaspora during it's first half century and indicated that Maestro Vatsche Barsoumian himself was a distinguished alumnus of Haigazian. The invocation was then given by Rev. Joseph Matossian minister to the Union of Armenian Evangelical Churches, and the performance began.

Johann Sebastian Bach composed the St. John Passion in the year 1724 to be performed as part of the Good Friday services. The story comes from chapters 18 & 19 of the Gospel of John. The narration is done by the "Evangelist" in recitative form, and in our case it was performed by Tenor, Daniel Plaster. The other principal solo parts are ?Jesus? performed by Baritone, Steve Pence, and "Pilate" performed by Bass, Stephen Grimm. There are also 8 solo arias which are elaborate contemplative compositions for solo voice and instrumental accompaniment. These arias were performed by Alenoush Yeghnazar, Soprano, Shoghig Koushakjian, Mezzo-Soprano, Steve Kronauer, Tenor, and Ara Kourouyan, Bass. Throughout the concert, the audience was able to follow the German text, by reading the translations both in Armenian and English on large overhead screens, or in the elaborate program booklet. During the original performance of the St. John Passion, a sermon was incorporated between Parts I & II of the music as part of the Good Friday services. This tradition was followed and Rev. Joseph Matossian gave an inspired message summarizing the central message of the ?Passion?. This is the message that we hear in Chorale No. 22, midway in the work as follows: "Through your captivity o son of God comes to us our freedom for if you had not entered into bondage, our bondage would have lasted for ever". Throughout the work Bach echoes John's firm belief that Jesus is one with God the Father, and he is our lord and creator. It?s also for this reason that the work does not end with the sad graveyard song but with an upbeat chorale that anticipates the resurrection.

As the last notes of the music faded into silence the audience thanked the maestro, soloists, chorus and orchestra with thunderous applause. A reception followed the performance organized by some of the members of the concert committee and the Haigazian Women's Auxiliary.

This sacred music concert was very much in line with the spirit and mood of lent, a solemn preparation for Holy Week as well as the much anticipated celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. It was indeed an evening of inspiration and spiritual renewal for both listeners and performers.
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