Armenian Aleppo: An Evening of Music, Photographs and Stories

2015-08 40MartyrsImageTo inaugurate its Autumn program of learning opportunities, the Zohrab Information Center will host the release of a new audio CD entitled, Forty Martyrs: Armenian Chanting from Aleppo on Friday, September 18 at 7PM in the Kavookjian Auditorium of the Armenian Diocese in New York.

Forty Martyrs is the latest release of the Sacred Voices of Syria series produced by Jason Hamacher. Over six years the musician has documented the ancient prayers, hallowed rituals and sacred spaces of the Sufi, Armenian, Syriac and Assyrian musical traditions of Aleppo. Hamacher recorded Armenian Church hymns sung by V. Rev. Fr. Yeznig Zegchanian inside the 600 year-old Armenian Church of the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste in the old city of Aleppo.

The 14th century Armenian Cathedral of the Forty Martyrs in Aleppo, Syria.
The 14th century Armenian Cathedral of the Forty Martyrs in Aleppo, Syria.

Armenians have chanted in Aleppo’s Forty Martyrs Armenian Church (Քառասուն մանկանց – Karasoon Mangants) since it was constructed in 1429. An ancient rest stop along the Christian pilgrimage route from Western Armenia to Jerusalem, Aleppo hosted hostels, churches, and a small but well-anchored Armenian community.

During the Armenian Genocide, hundreds of thousands of Armenians were deported to Aleppo before many were pushed to the killing fields of Der Zor. By the 1920’s 100,000 Armenian refugees had settled in Syria, most of them in Aleppo. The ancient city would become a safe haven for the Armenians, who prospered there. (CLICK HERE for one Armenian’s tribute to the city and its hospitable inhabitants). The 15th century Armenian Cathedral of the Forty Martyrs was the Christian home for tens of thousands of Armenians who would later immigrate to the United States.

The bloodshed in Syria today has reduced the Armenian population of Aleppo by half and and placed this historic, prolific and prosperous community in peril.

Mr. Hamacher will share personal experiences of the people, places and events that changed his life in Syria before the eruption of war. He will tell stories, play vinyl records, and show photographs from his forthcoming book and explain how he, a punk drummer from Washington DC, ended up with an archive of Syrian and Armenian history.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD A FULL-COLOR FLYER.

This event marks the premiere of the Forty Martyrs CD in the New York area. Copies of the CD and the elegant and informative booklet that accompanies it will be available for sale. The presentation is free and open to the public. A reception will follow. For further information contact the Zohrab Center at zohrabcenter@armeniandiocese.org or (212) 686-0710. #40Martyrs.

The Forty Martyrs Church is named after 40 Roman soldiers who converted to Christianity only to be martyred by pagan, Roman authorities in 320 AD. Continue reading “Armenian Aleppo: An Evening of Music, Photographs and Stories”

Farewell Aleppo

One of the oldest continuously inhabited cities on Earth, Aleppo became a staging ground and refuge for tens of thousands of Genocide survivors.
One of the oldest continuously inhabited cities on Earth, the city of Aleppo, Syria became a staging ground and refuge for tens of thousands of Armenian Genocide survivors.

by Paylag Khatchadourian (1906-1991)

Քաղաք մըն ես դուն արաբական,
Ծննդավայր իմ պատուական.
Աչքս բացի քեզի տեսայ,
Գիտցայ թէ ա´լ քաղաք չկայ։

Իմ հայրենիք երկրորդական,
Ժողովրդովդ սիրական.
Եղար հայուն բարի պաշտպան
Տուիր մեզի հաց ապաստան։

Ապրեցանք մենք միշտ միասին
Որպէս եղբայր հայն արապին.
Գործեցինք մենք միշտ միասին,
Որպէս անկեղծ Սուրիայի։

Մօտ է օրը մեր բաժանման,
Իմ մանկութեան լոյսի խորան.
Պիտի յիշենք քեզ տեւական,
Իմ մանկութեան յոյսի խորան։

Էջմիածնայ կոչնակը հնչեց,
Զաւակները իր քովը կանչեց.
Կը բաժնուիմ քեզմէ սիրով
Հալէպ քաղաք մնաս բարով։

Born in Erzerum, Turkey in 1906, Paylag Khatchadourian lost his parents, grandparents, uncle, three sisters and one brother in the Genocide. Barely escaping the atrocities himself, he was placed in the Kalekian Armenian orphanage in Syria. At the age of 18, Khatchadourian was released from the orphanage. He continued his education and subsequently settled with his family in Aleppo.

Written as the author was preparing to emigrate to Armenia along with thousands of others during the great repatriation of 1946, the poem poignantly conveys the tender love of countless Armenian genocide survivors for Aleppo, which became their “precious birthplace” and “second fatherland.” Today, as this historic city lies in ruins, the poem resonates in a new and tragic strain.

The poem was submitted by Dr. Aida Khatchadourian of Orlando, Florida, daughter of the poet, who died in 1991.

Read more about the Repatriation of 1946.