British Armenian Community Celebrates
Armenian Independence Day

The hugely successful 23rd anniversary event in London was a concert with the popular and talented Armenian singer  and composer, Alla Levonian

By Hasmik Harutunyan,
Freelence Journalist

On Saturday 20th September the British Armenian Community celebrated the 23rd Independence Day of the Republic of Armenia with a Concert by the highly talented and popular singer-songwriter Alla Levonyan, who had been specially invited from Yerevan.  This year’s event was particularly festive and the audience numbering in excess of 750,  was larger than ever. The event was held at St. Yegiche Armenian Church in Kensington, London, and was organised by the Heritage and Cultural Committee of the Armenian Community Council of the United Kingdom.

The evening started with the British and the Armenian National Anthems. An Introduction was made by Ms Tatev Poghosyan on behalf of the Organising Committee, followed by the Council’s Message by Mr Ara Palamoudian, Chairman of the Armenian Community Council of the United Kingdom.  Mr Palamoudian stated that it was with great pleasure that on behalf of the Community, the Council has been celebrating Independence Day for the past 23 years. He congratulated the people and Government of Armenia on the occasion of the 23rd Anniversary and pledges the support of the Community Council to the recently appointed Armenian Ambassador, Dr Armen Sarkissian and invited the Ambassador’s representative, Mr Ara Markarkarian to read the message from His Excellency. Mr. Ara Margarian followed by reading the message of His Excellency the Ambassador who was abroad and therefore unable to attend personally.

Following the formal speeches,  Alla Levonyan was received to a warm welcome by the audience, many of whom were already fans of her music. But those who were not familiar with Alla’s songs were instantly captivated by her voice, her music and her charming personality.
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Looking elegant and demure in an understated flowing white dress,  Alla said “I was born in a village called Avshar in the Ararat region” and continued,  “I am a provincial girl, and proud of it! All our great poets, writers and musicians have been from the provinces of Armenia.”

From her village, where she learned to play piano in the local music school, Alla went to pursue her musical education at the Department of Popular and Jazz  Music, in Yerevan State Conservatory. Her talent and musical knowledge are evident in her songs, which vary from her interpretations of Komitas to ancient folk songs, jazz and her own patriotic ballads.

“When I was a little girl growing up in my village, I used to run to the top of the roof and stretch my hands out towards Mount Ararat,” said Alla. “It felt so close, I imagined that I was touching it with my fingers. I was dreaming, of course, but what is life without dreams?” She then delighted the audience with a romantic song about the river Arax.

In the first half of the concert, Alla also performed her song dedicated to her mother, accompanied by a video of her three children and scenes of her mother baking lavash bread and working in their farm. This deeply personal and melancholic song was yet another example of how close the singer felt to her native country.  Alla’s vocal talent combined with the impeccable acoustics of the beautifully restored  St.Yegiche Armenian Church made her music sound halfway between a song and a prayer.

During the break a talented dancer from Akhtamar Dance Group performed an evocative solo Armenian dance.

For the second half of the evening, Alla reappeared in a stylish blue dress, and continued to delight the audience with her heartfelt patriotism through her interpretations of Komitas “Kele Yertank Mer Yerkir”, as well as the evocative song “Kilikia.” This was sung beautifully a cappella, to which the audience responded with a standing ovation.

“Patriotism is felt in all of us and whatever we do and wherever we go, it unites us. That is why we have survived wars, the Genocide, earthquake …  it keeps us alive and is the reason we have a free and independent country today,” Alla said, before singing “Go and fight”, a lyrical ballad about fighting for freedom and peace dedicated to the great Sparapet (General), the late Vazgen Sarkissian.

Having seen Alla perform live, it is not surprising that she was named National Artist by President Serge Sarkissian in 2011.   Since 2007, the singer has also been UNICEF’s Goodwill Ambassador for the Republic of Armenia.

Thanks to Alla’s sweet voice, her insightful ability at interpretation, her modesty, her wit and the popularity of songs such as Sassoun’s “Mairo”, or her take on “Blossom for Me”, audience members of all ages were delighted with Alla’s songs.

At the end of the evening’s entertainment, Rev. Father Shnork Baghdassarian cut short his closing speech to give back the stage to the wonderful singer, who performed three further beautiful songs.  Alla in her turn, thanked the ACC and organising committee and in particular the audience for attending the event in such large numbers.

There was no doubt that everyone left touched by this memorable concert for Independence Day thanks to the talented singer and composer Alla Levonian, a true goodwill ambassador for her country and role model for Armenians both in her homeland as well as the Diaspora.

 

 

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