Hayrig Mouradian
Children’s Traditional Song and Dance Ensemble
Hayrig Mouradian - Photo by Hakop Poghosyan In the 1990s, several musicians left the Agoonk Ensemble of Armenian National Radio and formed the Shoghaken Folk Ensemble. They often met with their teacher, Hayrig Mouradian, whose daughter, Maro, had been the director of Agoonk. During these meetings, the theme was always the same: the importance of preserving traditional Armenian music, and of stopping the infiltration of foreign influences.

At the time, Shoghaken soloist Hasmik Harutyunyan was teaching music in Yerevan. During her meetings with Hayrig, their conversation would inevitably turn to the fact that the children of Armenia weren’t being nourished with the music and culture of their homeland. One day, Hayrig gave some advice to Hasmik. He told her that if there wasn’t a place where Armenian folklore was being sung, then at least the music should be passed on to the children. Because of this advice, the Hayrig Mouradian Children’s Traditional Song and Dance Ensemble was formed.

Hayrig Mouradian, known as the Father of Armenian Song, was born in Western Armenia, in Shadakh village near Lake Van. He fled the Turkish massacres as a child, taking with him the music of the region. Up until his death in 1999, he had many students who learned these songs. Thanks to his dedication, and Hasmik’s, and that of highly esteemed dance instructor Rudik Haroyan, a wonderful movement and awakening had begun.

Now, two or three times a week, with the guidance of Hasmik, who acts as the group’s artistic director, and of Rudik, these children gather and learn the songs and dances of various regions of Historic Armenia. They also become acquainted with the other genres of folklore, including fables, legends, tales, and national games — in other words, everything that is true to the child’s soul.

Rudik Haroyan, Hayrig Mouradian, Aleksan Harutyunyan, and Hasmik Harutyunyan - Photo by Hakop Hovhannisyan After the group’s first year together, the children and their parents went to see Hayrig in Kaghtsrashen village, where he was staying with relatives during his final years. Many of the children saw Hayrig for the first time, and, to this day, say that this is the most precious memory of their childhood. They remember “Hayrig Babig,” who, with tears in his eyes, sang the songs of his childhood and youth with the children. Placing his hand on each child’s forehead, he said, “Form a group, you know who your ancestors were. You are the sons and daughters of poets. By songs, poetry, and art, you bring glory to your nation.”

Hayrig was delighted that these songs were being sung by children, and that the songs now had wings and would be carried into the future. It was at this time that the group formally adopted its name, “Hayrig Mouradian.”

With the help of Internews Armenia, a film about Hayrig, Ayp, pen, kim, was made, in which Hayrig weaved together the story of his life and his music. Ayp, pen, and kim represented the teacher, Hayrig, his student, Hasmik Harutyunyan, and the children who would carry the music into the future. The children participated in the film in song and dance.

The ensemble ranges in age from five to fifteen, forming a real-life family when they perform. During concerts and festivals everyone performs, including instructors Hasmik and Rudik, as well as others who had performed in Agoonk, including vocalist Aleksan Harutyunyan and dudukist Gevorg Dabaghian. The children take the songs and fables they learn home with them and teach them to their families, and they also take them to school and teach their friends, who, as a result, sing the songs and play the national games of their ancestors.

Photo by Hakop Poghosyan The Hayrig Mouradian ensemble has participated in television programs, and national holidays such as Vartavar, Palm Sunday, and Easter, singing and dancing in various church and monastery courtyards in Armenia. The ensemble’s first purpose, however, is educational. The instructors who work with the children are unpaid. They teach for the love of the music of their ancestors, with the goal of keeping this precious culture alive.

Still, the children would like to perform in more concerts. They enjoy showing what they have learned on stage. They understand the reality of the times, but they also have faith that their country will become a strong country where national music and culture flourish, and that if they see a cultural atmosphere which isn’t pure, that it will change for the better.

The songs and traditions of Armenia are now on the shoulders of these children. Hayrig Mouradian, whose long life was dedicated to music, would be proud of them.

In October 2005, a new CD of traditional Armenian children’s song recorded by the ensemble
with members of Shoghaken was released by Albi’s Face Music of Switzerland. To hear samples from the CD, click here.

To read my translation of a related article by Hasmik that appeared in the May/June 1998 issue of
Aghpyur Children’s Journal, click here.

Sample MP3 Recordings
Im khorodik yar
Performed by Hayrig Mouradian
Pari looso
Performed by Hayrig Mouradian

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