Return of the Armenian Mafia
Our concert on Tuesday night in The Club was a great success, and a very emotional experience for us all. What a week this has been! We have seen so many beautiful things (I will write about these and add photos in the next few days, I hope) but it is the reconnection with old and dear friends that has been the most memorable and moving part of the trip.
We had a packed house at The Club. It is an atmospheric space, underground, with stone walls and a series of different rooms, separated by short stairways and curtains. During the days, and on non-concert evenings, it is a restaurant and cafe, but for concerts it is transformed into a performance venue, with rows of chairs, and bean bags on the floor at the front.
Anna introduced us to the audience as friends from the European Mozart Academy, where we were affectionately referred to as the ‘Armenian Mafia’ (there was also a Russian Mafia, Polish Mafia, French Mafia, American Mafia…) – so this was the name of our reunion concert. She is such a skilled and thoroughly engaging presenter, who charms the audience with great ease, and makes them laugh. Between pieces she told stories from our time at the Academy, including one of her own experiences of travelling with a small group to Budapest for a concert, and getting chucked off the train at the Slovakian border. She was new to the Academy and had no English at all. But on that night, she told the audience, she learned her first English word, ‘sh*t’, from the Academy Director who had got off the train with her. The audience roared.
Then she and Margarit performed songs and my! they are wonderful, beautiful performers! They are so good together! I am just in awe sometimes.
We performed European music in the first half of the programme – German Lieder, a Handel aria (Dignare) with violin solo, the Spohr songs with Clarinet and voice, two wonderful zarazuela songs, and we closed the first half with my arrangement of Piazzolla’s Oblivion, for the four of us.
The second half was Armenian music – a piano solo by Maragarit of Babajanyan’s Elegie, CP and Margarit performing Komitas, some traditional unaccompanied songs sung by Anna (joined by one of her students), and then the Khachaturian Trio. We offered an arrangement of Moon River, again for the four of us, as our ‘bis’ (encore), and while this music is light compared to much of the rest of the programme, it felt incredibly wistful and nostalgic as we performed it that night, and was a beautiful, poignant way to end the concert. Tears in our eyes, but smiling faces all round. Such a special thing to be able to do together and share with people.
The whole concert was filmed for broadcast on Armenian television, and the four of us were also interviewed separately. I was asked questions about how difficult it was (or wasn’t) to play Armenian music and make it sound Armenian, if I’d enjoyed my visit to Armenia, what did I like best, and what would I change. I’ll post links to this footage when it is available.
At the end of the concert I took a photo of the audience – how could I not?!