YOUNG TALENTS: Sergey Manvelyan: “I will continue to write about great and forgotten Armenian singers and musicians”

During the presentation of the book by U.S.-based Armenian children’s writer Fira Akian organized by the Ministry of Diaspora of the Republic of Armenia and the Union of Writers of Armenia, I felt the desire to interview Sergey Manvelyan for Hayern Aysor. Sergey Manvelyan is a young author of two valuable books. During my ordinary conversation with Sergey, I got a greater impression than I could imagine. Every time I meet such young Armenians, I become convinced again and again that the future of Armenia is in good hands, that the youth of today have a lot of serious things to do and say and that the many wrong and contradicting notions of Armenian youth today are not general and can only refer to some young people. During our conversation, I found out that Sergey Manvelyan, who is a Turkologist by profession and a PhD student, is also ready to start working on his third book, which is devoted to another forgotten musician.

Karine Avagyan: Sergey, let’s start with your profession. What motivated you to get accepted to the Faculty of Oriental Studies at Yerevan State University? Was there anyone who guided you? Was it the dream you had during your years in school?

Sergey Manvelyan: When I was a student at Yerevan State University, I would listen to the speeches by famous ethnographer, folklorist and Professor Verjine Svazlian on television. Those speeches had a great impact on me. I learned about her pro-Armenian activities and thought to myself that I could also help my people someday, especially in regard to recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Inspired by Verjine Svazlian, I applied to study in the Turkology Department of the Faculty of Oriental Studies. I studied and graduated with pleasure and interest and got accepted to the Master’s Degree Program in Armenian History and am currently a PhD student at the Mesrop Mashtots Institute of Ancient Manuscripts-Matenadaran.

Karine Avagyan: Sergey, even though your book devoted to Medea Abrahamyan has not been presented yet, I already have the book. Thus, I congratulate you and wish you carry out more pro-national acts like this in the future. You started writing about Lusine Zakaryan. Why Lusine?

Sergey Manvelyan: I had written about Lusine Zakaryan when I was in my third year of studies at the university, but the book was released when I was already pursuing my studies for a Master’s Degree. I had heard a lot about Lusine Zakaryan. In addition, she was the brother of our neighbor Khoren Palyan. She would come and go, and there would always be talks about her at our house. I listened to her songs in 2012. The St. Gaiane Church of Etchmiadzin hosted an event dedicated to the 75th birth anniversary of Lusine Zakaryan, and a plaque created by Haik Tokmajyan was placed in front of the singer’s house. I was captivated by the singer’s exceptional voice and unique performances. Like many great musicians, Lusine Zakaryan was also sort of forgotten. It was necessary to address such greats, and I started having meetings with people who had memories of Lusine. After that, I came up with the idea of writing a book of memories. For me, Lusine Zakaryan is exceptional with her voice, performance, vocal range and depth of performance of songs. Catholicos Karekin I said the following about Lusine: “Lusine sang by praying and prayed by singing.”

Karine Avagyan: Before the release of your book, there had already been two other books devoted to Lusine Zakaryan that had been accepted by the public and immediately sold. Didn’t you have second thoughts before releasing your book?

Sergey Manvelyan: Yes, there were two books, including a monograph devoted to Lusine Zakaryan before the 1980s and a book of articles by Khoren Palyan and Lida Gevorgyan. It is obvious that those books were the most sought after and the bestselling books of their time, and of course, I had a high sense of responsibility when I was creating a new book devoted to Lusine Zakaryan.

Karine Avagyan: How many people did you talk to when you were compiling the memories?

Sergey Manvelyan: I talked to over 100 people, but I selected 80 memories of musicians, musicologists, famous actors, writers, journalists, academicians and other intellectuals and titled the book “Lusine Zakaryan in the Memories of Contemporaries”. The book was edited by Candidate of Philological Sciences Lusine Avetisyan, designed by Vahan Kocharyan and printed under the sponsorship of my good friend Gagik Harutyunyan from London. The presentation of the book was held at Komitas Chamber Music Hall in 2015. The Master of Ceremonies of the event was Sargis Najaryan. Among the attendees were Ohannes Chekidjian, Ruben Matevosyan, Medea Abrahamyan, Raisa Mkrtchyan, Nara Shlepchyan, Evelina Shahiryan and several other artists and those who appreciate the art of the great singer.

Karine Avagyan: I remember how much the presses gave positive feedback to your book. They were surprised and admired the fact that you had written such a book at such a young age. However, there was also criticism in the presses and on social networks. Wouldn’t you get upset?

Sergey Manvelyan: There were many people who commended my work and gave their positive feedback. There were also many inspiring comments on social networks. What mainly amazed people was the fact that I had chosen this path during my third year of studies. There were also people who made one or two statements, but they were not many in number. Of course, I got upset because this was my first time in the field, but I didn’t give up and started thinking about writing my second book.

Karine Avagyan: When did you start writing the book devoted to great Armenian classical musician, famous cellist Medea Abrahamyan and why did you choose to write about Medea Abrahamyan in particular?

Sergey Manvelyan: I was introduced to Mrs. Abrahamyan when I had started compiling memories to write my book devoted to Lusine Zakaryan. Mrs. Abrahamyan also shared her memories, and that laid the foundation for our friendship. This is the fourth book devoted to Medea Abrahamyan. This book was easier to write since the musician is with us, and I was able to have live conversations with her. I started writing the book in February of this year. The book devoted to Medea Abrahamyan is composed of three chapters that feature valuable materials related to the great musician’s life and career, including memories, articles, photos, letters and other kinds of documents, most of which are being published for the first time ever.

Karine Avagyan: Sergey, have you ever thought about the translation of your books? After all, the dissemination of books devoted to such great Armenians in different languages is very important in terms of introducing Armenians. Translation into foreign languages helps make a particular book popular.

Sergey Manvelyan: This is expensive and time-consuming. I provided summaries of the book about Mrs. Abrahamyan in English, Russian and Spanish so that foreigners learn about Medea Abrahamyan. I chose to provide a summary in Spanish because Medea Abrahamyan’s performances have mostly been highly appreciated by Spanish-speaking music lovers, particularly in Argentina.

Karine Avagyan: This question will lead to my next question. Do you sell or donate your books?

Sergey Manvelyan: I mainly donate them, but I also sell a certain number of copies.

Karine Avagyan: If it isn’t a secret, what will your next book be about?

Sergey Manvelyan: My next book…My next book will be a work to defend my candidacy. I am currently working on it. Of course, I have already thought of the musician whom I prefer and who is once again sort of forgotten. As a matter of fact, one can always write several books and articles devoted to many remarkable Armenians so that the new generation also recognizes our greats.

Karine Avagyan: You have been pursuing your career since your years at Yerevan State University. What about your life as a young person? Do you manage to interact with your friends and spend time in public places?

Sergey Manvelyan: I almost never visit public places, but I have been very culturally active and have been active in my prime. I have many friends and acquaintances, and we organize field trips and visit various sites in Armenia. We have also visited Western Armenia.

Karine Avagyan: Since you have already taken your steps in the field of literature by writing books about musicians, tell us what you think about Armenian music today, particularly classical music?

Sergey Manvelyan: It is hard to give an overall evaluation because there are many gaps. Although Armenia has many young and talented singers, musicians and performers, I must say that, unfortunately, spiritual and classical music is on the fall. Many discover themselves abroad, but I am certain that this won’t go on forever. Classical music concerts are held every day, but they are not the starting points for us to consider Armenian classical music as thriving.

Karine Avagyan: Thank you, Sergey! I wish you success in your career and academic activity in your prime. I wish your example becomes a benchmark for many young Armenians to create values by using their talent and potential.

Karine Avagyan

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