The Suni Project: Music Preservation

Grikor Mirzaian Suni (1876-1939)

1723 Wells | Ann Arbor, MI 48104-3601 USA | (734) 996-1949 | info@suniproject.org

Concert Programs

Armenian Music of Grikor Mirzaian Suni (1876-1939)

Grikor Mirzaian Suni (1876-1939) is one of the founders of modern Armenian music. Born east of Lake Sevan in Getabek village, he was raised in the eastern reaches of Historic Armenia, in Shushi (Karabakh). Suni’s music is beautiful, soulful, lively classical art music based in Armenian folk music of his own collecting, and includes vocal solos and duets, 4-part choral works, orchestral suites, and instrumental pieces. His music is unique, and at the same time “Armenian”, and like the music of Bach is polyphonic, contrapuntal, and versatile, wonderful on any instruments.

From a long line of ashough singers, Mirzaian (Suni) worked with all the Armenian masters of his time, a close associate of Komitas (Gomidas) in Etchmiadzin. At the St. Petersburg Conservatory of Music in the Russian capital, Mirzaian Suni studied composition with Rimsky-Korsakov. Graduating from the St. Petersburg Conservatory of Music, Suni resumed collecting songs of Armenians during his wide travels in the Caucasus, Anatolia, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Iran, and India. World War, revolution, and the Genocide of the Ottoman Armenians caused Suni to flee to the US in 1923, where he first conducted church choirs, then Armenian folk choruses, soloists and orchestras, in New York, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, and Philadelphia (where he settled in 1925), and supported Armenia from afar. When he criticized Stalin in 1937 his music was banned in Armenia, which is why his name is not as known now as it was earlier. Suni’s son Gourgen (George) Suny (1910 Erz’room-1985 Philadelphia) picked up his father’s baton in 1939 in Philadelphia, conducting Suni Choruses with orchestra, sometimes as Song and Dance Ensemble Concerts, to carry on presenting this treasured Armenian cultural musical heritage. Continuing in sharing this music are his granddaughters and daughter-in-law.

Performers in this concert are two great granddaughters of the composer Grikor Mirzaian Suni, and their mother, with the singers tenor Rubik Mailian, and soprano Anahit Toumajan. Rubik Mailian, born in Tehran, is Music Director and soloist of St. John Armenian Church of Southfield, Michigan, and teaches choral music at the AGBU Alex and Marie Manoogian Armenian school in Southfield. He is an alumnus of St. Nerses Seminary, holds a Master of Music degree (University of Houston), and Master of Arts in Theological Studies (St. Vladimir’s Seminary, NY).

Anahit Toumajan, born and educated in Armenia (Armenian Philology degree, Yerevan State University, masters in Armenian Literature), teaches Armenian language, history, Armenian songs at the AGBU Alex and Marie Manoogian Armenian Day School in Southfield, Michigan, and loves singing Armenian folk songs. Since 1998, Sevan Siranoush Suni (b. 1982) and Anoush Tamar Suni (b. 1987), violinist sisters, have been performing, separately and together, Armenian music of their great grandfather. Sevan began violin studies and classical violin performances at age 4, and Anoush at age 2. Anoush also plays oud, and sings with her oud, sometimes in Middle Eastern music ensembles. Anoush has studied with oud masters in Yemen and in Egypt, and hopes to study in Armenia next year. Sevan plays in the Stanford University Symphony Orchestra. In spring 2009 Sevan will complete her Stanford University Ph.D in population genetics, ecology and evolution, department of Biological Sciences, and Anoush will complete her B.A. in Middle Eastern Studies at Pomona College. Both will pursue further study.

Armena Marderosian (Suny), pianist wife of Grikor Suni’s grandson University of Michigan Professor Ronald Grigor Suny, studied piano at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music (Ohio), Suzuki Method in Japan, and is a teacher trainer of Suzuki Piano method. Married into the Suny family, Ms. Marderosian heard the beautiful music of Grikor Mirzaian Suni, then learned that in 1924 her own mother Vanouhi Kazanjian at age 16 had sung in the Suni Chorus in Boston.

To make recordings of this unique and wonderful music, Ms. Marderosian started The Suni Project: Music Preservation, nonprofit 501(c)3. With help of the AGBU, Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs, and other donors, the first CD was produced in 1997, “Armenian Songs of Grikor Mirzaian Suni (1876-1939): Vocal Solos and Duets” with singers Maro Partamian, Elisabeth Pehlivanian, Henrik Mihranian, and Suni’s own son Gourgen (George) Suny, singing on his 84th birthday, 9 months before his passing, with pianist Armena Marderosian. The Suni Project has two other CDs: remastered “Grikor Mirzaian Suni (1876-1939): Archival Concert Recordings” from Suni Chorus concerts 1935, 1940, 1971…and “Seda Suny 1986 Voice of America Interview Recital”. Listen free on the website www.suniproject.org. Read Suni’s (1919?) history of Armenian music published in Armenia 2005 with his autobiography, in Armenian and in English translation: “Armenian Music by Grigor Suni” also on the website, the creation of which was a grant from NEW Center, Nonprofit Enterprise at Work. Recordings will be available at this concert.

 


Grikor Mirzayants-Suni Chorus – Shushi 1902 / 3 academic year (July)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Suni chorus, Chicago 1930s

Grikor Mirzaian Suni in Chicago 1930′s with his Suni Chorus with Orchestra. This photo a gift of Caren Meghreblian whose grandparents, survivors of the Ottoman Turkish WWI genocide of its Armenian subjects, settled in Chicago. They are in the chorus: Her grandmother Louise Kazian Messigian is in the 2nd row, third from left (with a fluffy collar). Her grandfather Messia Messigian is in the shadow above and to her left. Caren Meghreblian’s mother, Dorothy Messigian Meghreblian, then age five, now recalls sitting on Suni’s lap after a concert and singing for Suni his harvest song “Hoontz”. We would like to learn more about this.

Photo with Grikor Suni in the midst of his Chicago Suni chorus with orchestra, 1930′s. Anyone with more information about this or other Suni concerts, please contact us .
 


Suni chorus, Chicago 1930s

Grikor Mirzaian Suni in Chicago 1930′s with his Suni Chorus with Orchestra. This photo a gift of Caren Meghreblian whose grandparents, survivors of the Ottoman Turkish WWI genocide of its Armenian subjects, settled in Chicago. They are in the chorus: Her grandmother Louise Kazian Messigian is in the 2nd row, third from left (with a fluffy collar). Her grandfather Messia Messigian is in the shadow above and to her left. Caren Meghreblian’s mother, Dorothy Messigian Meghreblian, then age five, now recalls sitting on Suni’s lap after a concert and singing for Suni his harvest song “Hoontz”. We would like to learn more about this.

Photo with Grikor Suni in the midst of his Chicago Suni chorus with orchestra, 1930′s. Anyone with more information about this or other Suni concerts, please contact us .
 


Boston Concert – May 18, 1924, Jordan Hall

Click on the image for a larger version.

 


A Jubilee Concert Celebrating Armenian General Benevolent Union 100th Anniversary

Havertown, Pennsylvania 100th Anniversary AGBU Jubilee Concert, Music of Grikor Mirzaian Suni, March 10, 2007

Concert Program

Concert Flyer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mezzo-soprano Maro Partamian (in purple), Violinists Anoush Tamar Suni (20, in red skirt) and Sevan Siranoush Suni (25, in white skirt), pianist Armena Marderosian (58, in red), performed 27 works of Armenian composer Grikor Mirzaian Suni (great grandfather of the violinists) on Saturday March 10, 2007 for the 7pm AGBU Armenian General Benevolent Union 100th anniversary concert sponsored by the AGBU Philadelphia chapter at Armenian Martyrs’ Congregational Church, Havertown, Pennsylvania.

 


Armenian Congregational Church, Southfield, Michigan 7:30 pm Thursday 17 January 2008

Sponsored by Tekeyan Cultural Association and The Suni Project
Maro Partamian, mezzo-soprano; Rubik Mailian, lyric tenor; Armena Marderosian, pianist; Sevan Suni, violin; Anoush Suni, violin + oud, great granddaughters of the composer

Thursday 17 January 2008 7:30 pm a very special, unique Armenian Event, sponsored by the Tekeyan Cultural Association, at The Armenian Congregational Church, 26210 West 12 Mile Rd. (at Franklin Road, near Northwestern Highway, between Northwestern and Telegraph), Southfield, Michigan 48034-1772 Church T: 248.352.0680

Our Concert of Armenian music of Grikor Mirzaian Suni (1876-1939) Performed by singers Maro Partamian, mezzo-soprano and Rubik Mailian, lyric tenor and pianist Armena Marderosian, (wife of Grikor Suni’s grandson U. Michigan Professor Ronald Grigor Suny) with great granddaughters of the composer Grikor Mirzaian Suni Violinist sisters Sevan Siranoush Suni, 25 and Anoush Tamar Suni, 20. Anoush Suni will also sing and play oud.

Armenian composer, musicologist, conductor, and teacher Grikor Mirzaian Suni (1876-1939) is one of the founders of modern Armenian music. Born east of Lake Sevan in Getabek village, he was raised in the Eastern reaches of Historic Armenia, in Shushi (now part of Azerbaijan). Suni’s music is beautiful, soulful, lively classical art music based in Armenian folk music of his own collecting, and includes vocal solos and duets, 4-part choral works, orchestral suites, and instrumental pieces. His music is unique and at the same time “Armenian”, and like the music of Bach is polyphonic, contrapuntal, and versatile, wonderful on any instruments. From a long line of Armenian ashough singers, Mirzaian (Suni) worked with all the Armenian masters of his time, and then at the St. Petersburg Conservatory of Music, Mirzaian Suni studied composition with Rimsky-Korsakov. Suni collected the songs of Armenians during his wide travels in the Caucasus, Anatolia, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Iran, and India. World war, revolution, and the genocide of the Ottoman Armenians caused Suni to flee to the US in 1923, where he conducted church choirs, created Armenian folk choruses, soloists and orchestras, in New York, Boston, Detroit, Chicago and Philadelphia (where he settled in 1925), and supported Armenia from afar. His son Gourgen (George) Suny picked up his father’s baton in 1939.
 


Ann Arbor concert – January 2, 2009

Free concert 7pm Friday January 2, 2009 invited by the Ann Arbor District Library, (Downtown lower level), 343 S. Fifth Ave, Ann Arbor, Michigan, will be presented by a chamber ensemble of musicians including Grikor Suni’s great granddaughters violinists Sevan Suni (26), + Anoush Suni (21, who will also play oud), their mother pianist Armena Marderosian, (wife of Professor Ronald Grigor Suny), tenor Rubik Mailian, and soprano Anahit Toumajan. Grikor Suni collected Armenian folk music, thru all Armenian areas of the Caucasus + Middle East, from which he created beautiful concert works.

From left to right: Violinists Anoush and Sevan Suni duet Violinist Anoush Suni and soprano Anahit Toumajan Violinists Anoush Suni and Sevan Suni and soprano Anahit Toumajan Violinists Anoush Suni and Sevan Suni and tenor Rubik Mailian Tenor Rubik Mailian

Suni Concert 2009 (PDF)

 


December 29, 2009 Suni concert in Armenia

Photo Tuesday December 29, 2009 Yerevan, Armenia. 4pm Suni Concert at Toumanian Museum; all four Suni family in this presentation of music of Grikor Mirzaian Suni (1876-1939) featuring music that Suni wrote to poems of his friend Hovhaness Toumanian. Toumanian’s photo is on the wall behind the whole family (left to right) Sevan Suni, Armena Marderosian, Anoush Suni, Ronald Suny (violin, piano, voice + oud, lecture).

Hovhannes Toumanian Museum concert of Music of Grikor Mirzaian Suni (1876-1939) in Yerevan, Armenia, Tuesday December 29, 2009 4pm. To feature the friendship and collaboration of these two giants of Armenian culture, the museum invited Suni’s family to give this concert. Poet Hovhanes Toumanian (1869-1923) and composer Grikor Mirzaian Suni were neighbors in Tiflis (Tbilisi). Mirzaian-Suni wrote songs to some of Toumanian’s poems. This concert featured two of these songs, played in recording, “Indz Mi Khndrir (Beeseech Me Not)” sung by soprano Elisabeth Pehlivanian with pianist Armena Marderosian, and “Yete Mi Or (If One Day)” sung by baritone Gourgen (George) Suny, 84-year-old son of the composer, with pianist Armena Marderosian, wife of Gourgen Suny’s son Professor Ronald Grigor Suny.
Also in recording we heard Suni’s daughter Seda Suny, age 80, singing and accompanying herself at the piano in “Sareri Hovin Mernim” the great aria from Suni’s opera Aregnazan. The concert was introduced by Artsvi Bakhchinyan, and opened by Professor Ronald Grigor Suny, to tell the story of his grandfather’s life and music. The live music opened with Suni’s great granddaughter violinist Sevan Suni playing eight works as violin solos with her mother Armena Marderosian at the piano: Tooy-Tooy, Oy Nazanum, Hoontzk, Dil Lyoo Lyoo, Tsoren Em Tsaner, O Yaro, Aghgeg Es, and Kyankn Anoush. Next Suni’s great granddaughter singer Anoush Suni sang three songs with her mother at the piano: Tsoren Em Tsaner, Gatsek Amper, and Nenni Bala. Next Anoush played her oud while she sang Ha Klor. People were interested to see the oud, still little known in eastern Armenia.
These works are for voice. Some are original, and some are folk song arrangements, composed for soloists or four-part chorus by Grikor Mirzaian Suni. Last, Anoush reminded the audience of the friendship of colleagues Grikor Mirzaian Suni and composer Komitas (Soghomon Soghomonyan 1869-1935), who were together in Etchmiadzin in the 1890′s collecting Armenian folk music. Mirzaian-Suni and Komitas each made his own arrangement of Shogher Jan. a sweet love song. Anoush sang the Komitas version of Shogher Jan inviting the audience to sing along with her for a warm ending to a concert that opened many ears and eyes to beauties of Armenian music as created by founders of modern Armenian music and literature, Grikor Mirzaian Suni, Komitas, and Hovhanness Toumanian.

The presenters:

  • Artsvi Bakhchinyan, introduction to speaker
  • Ronald Grigor Suny, speaker, grandson of Grikor Mirzaian Suni
  • Sevan Suni, violin, great granddaughter of Suni
  • Anoush Suni, soprano, oud, great granddaughter of Suni
  • Armena Marderosian, piano

 


Grikor Mirzaian Suni chamber music recent performances

With each performance, the pianist is Armena Marderosian:
Yerevan, Armenia: 2009, 29 December concert at Hovhannes Toumanian Museum with violinist Sevan Suni, oudist + soprano Anoush Suni, with introducer Artsvi Bakhchinyan + speaker Professor Ronald Grigor Suny
Ann Arbor, Michigan: 2009, 2 January concert at Ann Arbor District Library with soprano Anahit Toumajan, tenor Rubik Mailian, violinists Sevan + Anoush Suni, oudist Anoush Suni + dumbeg drummer Steven Osborne;
Southfield, Michigan: 2008, 17 January Tekeyan concert at Southfield Armenian Congregational Church with mezzo-soprano Maro Partamian, tenor Rubik Mailian, violinists Sevan + Anoush Suni + oudist Anoush Suni + dumbeg drummer Daniel Yousef Tehrani;

Los Angeles, CA: 2007, 21 April performance with violinist Anoush Suni for wedding of Chloe Yu;
Philadelphia (Havertown), PA: 2007, 10 March concert at Armenian Martyrs Congregational Church with mezzo-soprano Maro Partamian, violinists Sevan + Anoush Suni for 100th anniversary of the Armenian General Benevolent Union AGBU;
Los Altos Hills, CA: 2006, 30 July concert at Shahinian home with violinists Sevan + Anoush Suni;
Stanford, CA: 2006, 20 May concert with violinist Anoush Suni at Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences CASBS;
Palo Alto, CA: 2006, 29 April concert with violinist Sevan Suni, the Topaz Chamber Ensemble of violist Mimi Dye + flutist Jane Lenoir, with bass, also Hamed Nikpay Persian Ensemble at All Saints Episcopal Church;
San Francisco, CA: 2006, 9 April concert with violinist Sevan Suni, St. John Armenian Church;
San Francisco, CA: 2005, Friday 28 Oct, Oberlin Bay Area Alumni Concert in with violinist Sevan Suni at CMC Community Music Center
Cupertino, CA: 2001-2, Sevan + Anoush performances at St. Andrew Armenian Church
Southfield, Michigan: 1998, 13 November with chamber music ensemble from Michigan Opera Orchestra, professor Ronald Grigor Suny’s history of his grandfather’s life + music, violinists Sevan + Anoush Suni + singer Anoush Suni
Jordan Hall: 1924 May 18 , Boston Armenian National Concert conducted by Grikor Mirzaian Suni
Shushi (Armenian Caucasus area of Russian Empire): 1902/3, Grikor Mirzayants-Suni chorus in