Seda Suny: 1986 Voice of America Interview and Recital in Armenian, CD recording, 53 minutes
Translated by her student, Dr. Jeannette Hovsepian Frenster, August 2002
Seda Suny sings 7 Armenian songs, including two of her father’s. Then she sings 9 Russian songs. She accompanies herself at the piano.
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Interview in Armenian
- Interviewer introduces Seda Suny and asks her to talk about her ballet school.
- Seda Suny speaks of her dance career. Gladly. Officially, I opened my ballet school in New York in the year 1928, but from a young age I loved to teach dancing. Even before going to ballet school, I used to gather all the children from our (neighborhood) [in Tiflis] and I taught them group dancing. Of course, I was the soloist among them. Later, when Srpoohie Lisitsian admitted me to her school, I used to help her in every class. When I was nine years old, whenever she was ill or unable to teach them, she would hand over to me the 4 to 6 year olds. I conducted their classes by myself. Srpoohie Lisitsian played an important role in my early (dancing career) and I shall never forget all she did for me. I decided to do the same thing in my school. Whenever I saw talented students, in addition to giving them free lessons, I also worked in every way to encourage and help them. In 42 years, thousands of students passed through my hands Among them were many famous dancers, for example: Levon Danielian, Viola Essen, Jacques D’Ambois, Susan Casey, Burton Taylor, and others.
- Interviewer asks about her singing.
- Seda Suny tells of her education. In 1914, when World War I broke out, we were in Erzurum. Our family returned to Tiflis and my father decided that at least one of the children should have an Armenian education. That one was myself. They sent me to Gayanian School where all the children made fun of me and called me (‘khossos’) because I spoke
Turkish-Armenian. As much as I explained that I was born in Tiflis, it didn’t help until the music class, when Azad Manoogian noticed that I had a good ear. He asked, ‘What is your name, little one?’ When he heard my name, oh what hugs and kisses! ‘Oh, dear little Seda, is it you? When you were a very tiny girl I always took you out to the park.’ That saved me, and from that day on my honor increased. Azad Manoogian was the children’s best-loved teacher. He was a wonderful instructor and taught musical theory and solfeggio using Armenian folk songs. I grew up with those Armenian songs. Of course, I was his favorite pupil. At home, no one paid attention to me, but at school, both teachers and students all complimented me and called me (‘the future actress’).
- Interviewer asks her to talk about her memories she associated with her father and her impressions of him.
- Seda Suny tells of Grikor Mirzaian Suni’s music and politics. My father was born in 1876 in Getabek village, but his childhood was spent in the city of Shushi. He graduated from the Gevorkian Jemaran (academy, college), and the St. Petersburg Conservatory under Rimsky Korsakov and Glazunov. But my father’s love was the Armenian song, and most of his composition was Armenian music. I remember every summer he would travel from village to village, paper and pencil in hand. He would sit with the villagers and ask them to sing, and in that way he collected the folk songs, which he later transcribed.We were eight children and all of us were afraid of him. He was either giving classes, conducting rehearsals, composing, or sleeping because he had been working all night until dawn on his compositions. Eight children in one house and
we couldn’t make any noise in order not to disturb him. When Papa wasn’t home we all rejoiced, with loud laughing, running, playing. As soon as we heard his foot- steps though, we all turned into lambs. My father was a revolutionary and participated in the movement. In 1908 the gendarmes surrounded our house to seize him but he was able to escape, and later we learned he was in Trebizond [Trabzon, Trapizon]. Soon afterwards we followed him. Wherever he went, he would immediately form a choral group, and I and my sister [Siran] always participated in the chorus from a young age. I recall that in Tiflis our house was a musical center. [Sadalian], Ghazarian, Mirzaian, Mazmanian, Abrahamian, Barkhudarian, [Pushnario], Spiridon Melikian, Anoushavan Ter-Ghevondian’.they were either my father’s students or friends. In 1919, he went to Persia without the family, and in 1921 the family was reunited in Constantinople. In 1923 we all moved to America. In all the major American cities, he established Suni choral groups and gave concerts until the end of his life, December 18, 1939.
- Interviewer asks her about her visit to Armenia.
- Seda Suny tells of Armenia’s ballet school. In 1967, I visited Soviet Armenia. I took my father’s manuscripts with me and donated them to Armenia’s museum. After that, for two weeks I attended the Yerevan Opera ballet rehearsals and visited the ballet school. It was the time of the school examinations, and I was asked to participate in the evaluations. It must be said that the ballet school in Soviet Armenia is very highly respected. I wish we in America had schools like this. The teachers don’t miss a thing. They pay attention to every little mistake, and because of that, they are able to attract the best dancers. Unfortunately, I didn’t see much appreciation among the populace. Very few people attended the performance on ballet days, but the Altoonian Armenian Dance Group Theater was filled. Yerevan is a very beautiful city and brings us all honor.
- Interviewer asks Seda Suny to sing folk songs.
- Seda Suny introduces 7 Armenian folk songs. The 1st and 3rd, Sareri Hovin Mernim, and Nenni Bala, are songs of her father.
Seda Suny sings 7 Armenian songs, accompanying herself at the piano
- Sareri Hovin Mernim (For the Mountain Breeze I’d Die) by Grikor Mirzaian Suni, from his “Aregnazan” opera 2:40
- Siretsi Yarus Daran (I Loved but’) 2:59
- Nenni Bala (Sleep My Child) by Grikor Mirzaian Suni 1:55
- Aghji Horom (A Girl Named Horom) 2:02
- Yes Bujoor Yarus Bujoor (I’m Little and My Sweetheart’s Little)- yev (and) Dule Yaman (Dear Heart, Alas) 3:51
- Kez Em Mnoom Anoush Karoon (I’m Waiting for You Sweet Spring) 3:30
- Yerevan Bagh Em Arel (My Yerevan Orchard) 2:06
- Interviewer’s end: “It’s unbelievable” :12
Seda Suny sings 9 Russian romance songs
- Myechda (Dream) 3:04
- Daska, Byechal (Suffering) 2:17
- Trivoka (Missing You) 2:33
- Sokol Prikrasni (Handsome Hawk) 2:45
- Pomnish Taganka (Do you remember Taganka?) 3:05
- Vsyo Shto Bila (All that’s Happened) 2:38
- Choovchik (Curly Bangs) 2:08
- Tyeni Minoovshego (Forgive Me) 3:05
- Proshchai (Farewell) 2:54