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Armine, Sister


Nowy Teatr, hala warsztatowa, ul. Madalińskiego 10/16


Armine, Sister is dedicated to Armenian history and culture and to the Armenian genocide.

Originally, the piece was intended as a séance in which it is not us calling the departed, but the spirits of the dead calling to have a trace of the past revealed, made visible, unearthed. The title, Armine, Sister, recalls the first two words of a letter with no clear address, which is doomed to drift around in time and space.

In light of the post-Auschwitz future that Theodor W. Adorno envisaged for poetry, art and education, we would like to ask: “Is there a chance that the 21st century will not become the century of ignorance?” In our new piece we ask about Europe, convinced that Europe is a question – one about history, identity, dignity. One of the main ideas of Armine, Sister is to tackle the issue of historic taboos and lies as opposed to a duty to witness.

When working on the performance, we often invoked Paul Celan’s Death Fugue, in which the dreams of the murderers and victims are dreamt in the same space. The space of the performance/séance of memory, like the space of a dream, is co-inhabited by thousands of beings. Armine, Sister touches on how painful the memory-carrying process can be. It is also an attempt to identify/name our place in relation to past generations, and to understand who we are – we, who always stand on the other side of memory like on the other side of the camera. We gaze at history through a peephole, seeing only a trace, a shadow, a thought.

For our new project, Armine, Sister, we decided to explore Anatolian monodic traditions, based on the group’s vocal competence built for over ten years, resulting from our experience performing polyphonic songs. The project includes musicians from various music traditions of Asia Minor, Anatolia and Iran, whom we met on our expeditions: the Van-born Kurdish singer Dengbej Kazo; Murat Iclinalca, the Armenian master singer at St Gregory the Illuminator Church in Istanbul; the Teheran-born sisters Mahsa and Marjan Vahdat; and Vahan Kerovpyan, a composer and drummer born to an Armenian family in Paris. We also collaborate with the singer Virginia Pattie Kerovpyan and the Istanbul-based singer and drummer Selda Ozturk. Our main collaborator on Armine, Sister is Aram Kerovpyan, the Istanbul-born master singer of the Armenian Cathedral in Paris.

Performers/musicians: Ditte Berkeley, Przemysław Błaszczak, Alessandro Curti, Jarosław Fret, Murat İçlinalça, Dengbesz Kazo, Aram Kerovpyan, Kamila Klamut, Aleksandra Kotecka, Simona Sala, Orest Sharak, Mahsa Vahdat, Marjan Vahdat, Tomasz Wierzbowski

Modal song studio led by: Aram Kerovpyan
Vocal collaboration: Virginia Pattie Kerovpyan
Sets built by a team led by Piotr Jacyk: Maciej Mądry, Krzysztof Nawój, Paweł Nowak, Bartosz Radziszewski, Andrzej Walada
Lighting: Bartosz Radziszewski
Project coordination: Magdalena Mądra
Musical dramaturgy, installation, direction: Jarosław Fret

Premiere: 28 November 2013, Na Grobli Studio

Aram Kerovpyan was born in Istanbul. As a youth, he received liturgical chant training in the Armenian Church. He learned to play the kanoun and studied the Middle Eastern music system with master musician Saadeddin Öktenay. In 1977, he moved to Paris where he devoted himself entirely to music, playing with various Middle Eastern musicians. In 1980, he joined the Ensemble de Musique Arménienne that later became Kotchnak. From this date on, Armenian music became his principle field of research, particularly the modal system of liturgical chant. In 1985, he formed Akn, an ensemble of Armenian liturgical chant. Parallel to his activities as a musician, Aram Kerovpyan participates in conferences, lectures in Europe and in North America, publishes articles and does research in the field of Armenian modal music theory. He is a doctor of musicology. Since 1990, he is the master-singer of the Armenian cathedral in Paris.

Virginia Pattie Kerovpyan was born in Washington, D.C. While in the USA, she studied singing and sang in a number of choirs and early music ensembles as both chorist and soloist. Upon her arrival in France, she continued her voice studies at the École Normale Supérieure de Musique de Paris and at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique. Virginia Pattie Kerovpyan has performed and recorded with early music ensembles such as Les Arts Florissants, Ensemble Guillaume de Machaut de Paris, Per Cantar e Sonar, l’Offrande Musicale, La Grande Écurie et la Chambre du Roy. In 1976, she formed with Rouben Haroutunian the duo that would later become Kotchnak, and in 1985 helped to form the ensemble of Armenian liturgical chant Akn, of which she is the female vocalist.

Vahan Kerovpyan was born in Paris, now lives in Porto. He is musician, instrumentalist and composer. He leads workshops on drum and percussion playing, on which he performs since childhood. For several years he followed courses of dehol with Edmond Zartarian, also zarb and dap with Madjid Khaladj. Moreover, he plays piano and sings in the Armenian choir Akn. He is a member of Kotchnak since 2003 and a musician of the Medz Bazar collective, formed in Paris in 2012. He completed Armenian studies at the French National Institute of Eastern Languages and Civilizations (INALCO), also studied history at the Sorbonne University (IV). He collaborates with artists, composing music for performances, playing and singing alive. He participates in projects connected with preservation and development of the Armenian cultural heritage, among others he leads classes for Armenian children, publishes articles, works in renovation of the Armenian monuments in Turkey.

Murat Içlinalça was born in 1985 in Istanbul. He has been a student of Armenian church music since he was 8 years old, having Nisan Çalgıcıyan as master. He has studied singing and folk music at the Istanbul Technical University Music Conservatory, from which he graduated in 2010. At same year he was appointed master singer at the Saint Gregory the Illuminator Church in Istanbul.

Dengbej Kazo was born in 1950 in Van and now lives near Istanbul. He often gives concerts performing both popular Kurdish songs and his own compositions. He also improvises in keeping with the tradition of the dengbej (travelling Kurdish singers and storytellers). In 1960 the Turkish government officially banned the practice of the dengbej. In the 1980s many of the dengbej had to move to the cities in search of safety and work, and settled in their poorest sections. The dengbej tradition started to fade into oblivion. In 2003 a number of EU-funded projects were begun to protect this tradition. The memory of the dengbej is a rich fund of knowledge about Kurdish history and tradition. Documentation efforts are now underway to describe this extraordinary phenomenon of voices that embody the past.

Sisters Mahsa and Marjan Vahdat were both trained in classical Persian singing by master musicians in Iran as well as in regional and traditional Iranian music. After the Islamic Revolution in 1979 in Iran, public female singing was banned and even some years after the revolution female singers can only perform for women-only audiences or alongside a male voice, and can never perform solo in public. But many female singers in Iran have continued singing regardless, as have Mahsa and Marjan, who give private concerts in Iran but mostly perform outside of the country. Their repertoire is inspired by regional and traditional music from Iran with their own musical expression; their lyrics are mostly mystical and love poems by great Persian poets like Hafez, Rumi, Saadi, who lived several centuries ago, as well as contemporary Iranian poetry speaking about Iranian society. An active campaigner for human rights, Mahsa gives numerous benefit concerts and, with Marjan, is also one of the ambassadors of Freemuse, an independent international organisation advocating freedom of expression for musicians and composers worldwide. She has attracted considerable attention recently with her work on the record Lullabies from the Axis of Evil.

Teatr ZAR

Cultivating an ethos of ensemble work, Teatr ZAR develops productions through a long process of creating its own theatrical language, which draws on music from numerous traditions found in the East and West. The company is a multinational group that was formed during annual research expeditions to Georgia between 1999 and 2003. During these expeditions, they collected much musical material, including a core of centuries-old polyphonic songs that have their roots in the beginning of the human era and are probably the oldest forms of polyphony in the world. Zar is a name of funeral songs performed by the Svaneti tribe who inhabit the high regions of the Caucasus in north-west Georgia. Teatr ZAR attempts to demonstrate that theatre does not only relate to thea (Greek for seeing) but it is something that above all should be heard.

ZAR brings back theatre as it was before art ruptured into different disciplines and styles. Its work addresses themes that, in the contemporary world, seem to be reserved only for the religious domain. It comes from conviction influenced by Polish Romantic ideas, that art is not only complementary to religion but can fill the dynamic chasm between the everyday and transcendent life. Juliusz Osterwa, one of the greatest figures of 20th-century Polish theatre who tried to put these ideas into practice - and one whose ideas had a great impact on Jerzy Grotowski – once wrote: 'God created theatre for those for whom the church does not suffice'.

Performance Gospels of Childhood. The Triptych is a culmination of the company’s more than 10 years of work with ancient sacred songs. In 2009, the triptych premiered in London at the Barbican Centre and then was presented in Los Angeles, Wrocław, Florence, San Francisco, Chicago, Sibiu in Romania and in Legnica, Szczecin and Bydgoszcz in Poland. Separate parts of the opus were presented among others in Athens, Edinburgh, Madrid, Beograd, Budapest, Paris, Cairo, Seoul, New Delhi, Boston. Gospels of Childhood. The Triptych was named Best New
Music Theatre from the Los Angeles Times in 2009, and in October 2010 it was honoured with thee Wroclaw Theatre Price. The second part of the triptych Caesarean Section. Essays on Suicide was shown as part of the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh in August 2012 and was presented with a prestigious Total Theatre Award for Physical/Visual Theatre and a Herald Angel Award.