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Soghomon Gevorki Soghomonyan - Komitas Vardapet ("Սողոմոն Գևորքի Սողոմոնյան" - "Կոմիտաս Վարդապետ" in Armenian), by Western Armenian transliteration also Gomidas Vartabed, born on September 26 or October 8 (see discussion) 1869 in KŁtahya , Turkey, died on October 22 1935 in Paris, France, was an Armenian priest, composer of choir music, and musicologist.
Soghomon (Gevorki) Soghomonyan was born into a music family. At the age of 1 his mother died, ten years later also his father died. His grandmother looked after him until 1881 when a prelate of the local Armenian diocese went to Echmiadzin to be consecrated a bishop. The katholikos Gevork IV ordered him to bring one orphaned child to be educated at the Echmiadzoin Seminary. Among 20 candidates Soghomon was chosen, entered the seminary (where he impressed the katholikos with his singing talent) and finished it in 1893 when he became a monk. According to the church tradition he was reborn so he was rebaptisted into Komitas (named after a 7th century Armenian hymn writer ). Two years later he became a priest and obtained the title Vardapet (or Vartabed), meaning a priest or a church scholar.
He established and conducted the monastery choir till 1896 when he went to Berlin, enrolled the Kaiser Friedrich Wilhelm University and studied music under Richard Schmidt . In 1899 he acquired a title doctor of musicology and returned to Echmiadzin where he took over conducting of a polyphonic male choir. He was extensively traveling around the country, listening and recording details about Armenian folk songs and dances performed in various villages. This way he collected and published approx. 3000 songs, many of them adapted to choir singing.
His major work is Badarak (Divine Liturgy), today still part of a church liturgy, which he started composing in 1892 and never completely finished due to the upcoming World War I. For Badarak's fundaments he took chants sung by the eldest priests and "upgraded it with typical ("cleaned" from foreign influences) Armenian music elements from his collected material. Today the best known version of Badarak is his favourite for a three voiced male choir.
He was the first non-European to be admitted into the International Music Society . He had many lectures and performances throughout Europe, Turkey and Egypt, thus presenting till then very little known Armenian music.
From 1910 he lived and worked in Constantinople. There he established a 300 member choir Gusan. On April 24, 1915, the day when Armenian Genocide officially began, he was arrested together with virtually all Armenian intellectuals and forced to march towards Arab deserts. His good friend, Turkish poet Emin Yurdakul , and the U.S. ambassador Henry Morgenthau intervened at the government so Komitas was released soon but he found a part of his collection destroyed or totally disordered. He never fully recovered from this experience. He moved to Paris where he died in a psychiatric clinic Villejuif in 1935. Next year his ashes were transferred to Yerevan and buried into the Panthenon. In 1950's his manuscripts were also transferred from Paris to Yerevan.
Today the music academy in Yerevan is named after Komitas.
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