NATIONAL CHAMBER CHOIR OF ARMENIA
Through the fiscal sponsorship of Vatche and Tamar Manoukian Foundation, the National Chamber Choir of Armenia (NCCA) was founded in 2000 and Maestro Robert Mlkeyan, a Movses Khorenatsi medal recipient and an Honored Worker of Art of Armenia, was appointed as the Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the ensemble. A professional choir of 32 voices, NCCA’s primary mission is to bring choral masterpieces of the Armenian composers to life and share them with its audience worldwide. NCCA brilliantly performs works of Komitas (1869–1935), the father of Armenian classical music, as well as the contemporary Armenian composers. Over the years the choir has performed world premieres featuring compositions by Tigran Mansurian, David Halajian, Edward Hayrapetian, and many others. NCCA’s repertoire also includes Bach, Brahms Faure, Gabrielli, Schnittke, Schubert, Vasks, and other great composers.
NCCA has toured in Argentina, the USA, Canada, Georgia, Greece, Lebanon, and the UK. In 2006, the ensemble took part in the International Festival of Modern Music in Donizetti Opera Theatre in Bergamo, Italy, and performed several concerts in the White Hall and Catherine Palace in Saint Petersburg, thus summing up the Year of Armenian Culture in Russia. In 2007, the choir delivered an exceptional concert in the Council of Europe Concert Hall in Strasbourg, France.
On the occasion of the 140th anniversary of Komitas’ birth, NCCA recorded two CDs at Saghmosavank Monastery, featuring selected sacred and secular choral works by the genius composer. In the same year, concerts were organized in the Gaveau Concert Hall and Saint-Louis Church in Paris, a concert-lecture was held at Haus der Kulturen der Welt (House of the World Cultures), Berlin, and concerts were held in Geneva and Zurich. The video recordings of the concerts in France and Switzerland were edited into a documentary, which was later aired on the various Armenian Public TV and satellite channels.
NCCA released its Ars Poetica CD on ECM Records in 2006, featuring the choral concert written by Tigran Mansurian which is based on ten poems by Yeghishe Charents. The CD was awarded a five-star rating by the World Music Council. The inclusion of the Ars Poetica CD in the Gramophone, a prestigious music catalog, which reports on the most outstanding classical CDs since 1923, may be considered one of the many significant achievements of the choir.
In 2009, NCCA staged a live performance of one of the choral masterpieces of the 20th century, Alfred Schnittke’s Choir Concerto, for a documentary directed by Hovik Hakhverdyan, titled In Search of Naregatsi. Devoted to St. Gregory of Narek and his famous Book of Lamentations, the documentary is based on conversations and a discussion among intellectuals, interspersed with both musical pieces performed by the choir and fragments from the Book of Lamentations, recited by Sos Sargsyan, a genius of the contemporary Armenian Theatre.
Besides its frequent concerts and tours, NCCA participates in charity projects by performing in educational institutions in rural areas of Armenia to introduce the choral culture to a wider audience in the country.
Artistic Director and Principal Conductor
Maestro Mlkeyan is an Honored Artist of Armenia, “Movses Khorenatsi” medal recipient, as well as Armenia’s 2nd-degree medal recipient for the services provided to his motherland.
He was born in Yerevan, in 1961. He received his primary music education in the Music School after Mirzoyan, class of violin. He then studied in Saint Petersburg, class of symphony and choral conductor. He continued his graduate studies in the class of Emin Khachatryan, as his assistant trainee.
In 1984-1986, he was conductor of the students’ choir of Komitas State Conservatory’s composition and music theory department. In 1988-1992, he was leading the youth choir of Conservatory, which won the “Grand Prix” in a republican competition. In 1992-2000, he was the Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of Gyumri State Symphonic Orchestra and Gyumri Chamber Choir, at the same time.
Since 1995, he has been leading the “Hay Folk” vocal ensemble, with exceptional successes in Armenia and numerous guest tours abroad.
He was the Artistic Director of the music portion of Armenian Days at the EXPO-2000 international exhibition in Hanover, where he won the first prize. He has been the Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the Armenian Chamber Choir since 2000.
Under his leadership, world-famous ECM Records released in 2006 the «ARS POETICA» CD of the choral concert. The full information on the CD is placed in “The Gramophone” prestigious music catalog.
The choir performed with guest tours in London, Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Geneva, Brussels, Aleppo, Damascus, Latakia, Tbilisi, Goris, Moscow, Saint-Petersburg, Hanover, Frankfurt, Strasbourg, Los Angeles, Fresno, Bergamo, Toronto, Ottawa, Niagara, Dresden (together with Philharmonic Orchestra in Frauenkirche Church).
In 2015, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, the local national orchestra and choir of Mexico performed Tigran Mansuryan’s requiem and alt concerto under Mlkeyan’s leadership (soloist Kim Kashkashyan). Within the framework of the same events, he appeared with concerts in Switzerland (Central Cathedral of Bern in Zurich), with Bern’s Orchestra and Children’s Choir, as well as in Lebanon, Argentina, Greece (Athens, Thessaloniki).
He appeared with concerts in numerous reputable concert halls, including St. Louis Cathedral, Salle Gaveau (Paris), White Hall, Smolny Cathedral, Glazunov Hall (Saint Petersburg), the EU Hall “Salle Schweitzer at the Palais de la Musique et des Congres” (Strasbourg), Teatro Donizetti Opera House (Bergamo), Frauenkirche Church (Dresden), Teatro Colon (Buenos Aires), Megaron Concert Hall (Athens).
Robert Mlkeyan is the author of numerous choral arrangements of folk songs, as well as of music written for theatre performances.
A violinist by training, a graduate of Yerevan State Conservatoire after Komitas (1975), Arabyan joined the State Symphonic Orchestra of Armenia following his graduation. In the same period, he began to teach violin classes at the School of Music after T. Tchouhadjian. Having joined the Symphonic Orchestra of the State Radio and Television in 1978, he became its director in 1988. Between 1991 and 1993 he served as the Chief Director of the Music Programmes Service of the State Radio and Television. In 1993 he was appointed to the position of the Chief Adviser to the Head of the State Radio and Television. Two years later he became the Head of the Department of International Affairs of the RA Ministry of Communications. Between 1996 and1997 he served as the Deputy Chief of the Department of Cultural Affairs of Yerevan Municipality. In 1997 Armen Arabyan became the Director of the National Chamber Orchestra of Armenia. Since 2009 he has devoted his creative talents to the National Chamber Choir of Armenia.
Since 2007, A. Arabian has been the Golden Medal recipient of the Armenian Ministry of Culture, and in 2011 he has been awarded the honorary title of the Honoured Art Worker of Armenia.