AGBU Toronto Celebrates Canada 150 with an Inspiring Concert

Isa Basmajian

AGBU Toronto presented a superb musical concert on the evening of Sunday, September 10th, dedicated to the 150th anniversary of Canada’s Confederation. On this very propitious occasion, the emcees of the evening, Mihran Egavian, AGBU Toronto chairman, and Christine Kavazanjian, chairperson of the AGBU Toronto Young Professionals, welcomed all those present and invited the Honourable John McKay, Member of Parliament (MP) for Scarborough-Guildwood, to address the audience. Mr. McKay, who is the MP for the riding in which resides the AGBU, spoke at length on the positive contributions of the various peoples of Canada, including Armenians, for making it the great country that it is. After his rousing oration, Mr. McKay was presented with a limited edition of a print depicting the streets of Toronto, a work by the Canadian-Armenian artist, Gerard Paraghamian.

Soon after, the concert began. It was a concert filled with inspiring music impeccably performed by the gifted artists of that evening: the vocalists, soprano Irina Zakyan and baritone Krikor Jangeosian, along with the instrumentalists, Narine Mardoyan on the piano, Lilit Zakaryan on the violin and on the cello Gayane Sahakyan. Much like the peoples of Canada, the concert was a masterful admixture of various styles and genres. It displayed the immense talents of the players who showcased in their repertoire works by Komitas, Spendiarian, Babajanian, Brahms, Stradella, and Loewe, amongst many others, weaving together a variegated, rich and strong programme much in the manner of the diverse citizenry of Canada.

This small group of splendid performers of Armenian origin are to the Armenian nation what Canadian-Armenians are to the population of Canada; individuals who enrich and contribute to the whole with their many talents and hard work. And with that in mind, former MP, the honourable Sarkis Assadourian, in the audience, was acknowledged for his many years of service in Canada’s parliament. Also introduced to the assembled were two Canadian-Armenians distinguished for their contributions to the development of Canadian culture and their participation in the Canadian-Armenian community: Silva Basmajian, retired executive producer for the National Film Board of Canada, who now is working with independent filmmakers of Armenian origin, and Levon Ishkhanian, renowned composer and musician.

Both honourees were called to the podium to receive each the AGBU Award of Distinction. Both individually expressed their gratitude to the AGBU for the awards and were effusive in attributing their success to the positive and welcoming atmosphere that reigns in Canada. They were grateful and cognizant of the entrenched freedoms of the country which allows them the honour and privilege to be a Canadian citizen and at the same time the honour and privilege to be a member of the Armenian community.

At the end of the evening, the audience vigorously applauded the performers and still seemed to be enraptured with the sounds of the evening that still resounded in their heads. As I filed out of the AGBU Babayan Auditorium with everyone else I could hear voices that gratefully told their companions how lucky they felt that they were living in Canada and still others wistfully whispering to each other how they wished more people could support concerts such as this. It was a beautiful evening. Congratulations to all the organizers, under the leadership of Ms. Salpi Der Ghazarian, AGBU Toronto’s Executive Director, for arranging the evening’s concert in celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday. Happy Birthday, Canada! May you continue to grow and prosper and remain strong and free, with the contributions of your diverse citizenry, amongst them the Canadian-Armenians.