A Piece From The Heart
The Glendale News-Press
By Angela Hokanson
Published: October 22, 2007.
Although Edward Manukyan grew up in Armenia and played music with a local orchestra in the capital, Yerevan, during his teenage years, it wasn’t until he arrived in the U.S. and was studying jazz that he took a serious look at the folk music of his home country.
While reading a biography of American jazz pianist Bill Evans, Manukyan was surprised to discover that Evans had been inspired by Aram Khachaturian, a 20th-century Armenian composer whose work was influenced by Armenian folk music.
“I felt ashamed that I didn’t know enough about Khachaturian’s music,” Manukyan said.
That day, Manukyan stopped reading the biography and went out to buy every Khachaturian CD he could find. Since then, he has dedicated himself to composing classical music, especially music inspired by the Armenian folk tradition.
One of these works, “Images of Armenia,” will be performed tonight by Glendale High School’s symphonic orchestra. The high school students will perform four out of the five movements in the suite. The students’ performance of the work marks only the second time the piece has been performed publicly. This summer, the state orchestra in Armenia will play and record the piece for a new CD of Manukyan’s music.
Manukyan, who lives in Northridge, has visited the students at Glendale High this fall as they practiced his work, giving them a chance to ask about how he composed the piece and what motivated him.
“It was really exciting, because we can actually consult with him on what he meant it to sound like,” said Claire LaPolt, a senior in the symphonic orchestra. The orchestra has performed folk music before, but not music where the composer was accessible, Claire said.
The director of the school’s instrumental music program, Amy Rangel, met Manukyan while he was completing his master’s degree in music composition at Cal State Los Angeles. Rangel suggested a collaboration between the 26-year-old composer and her students, and Manukyan has allowed the students to use his music for free.
Rangel said she thought it would be interesting to expose her students to the work of a new composer, as well as give a young composer like Manukyan a chance to showcase his work.
The piece, which was written for a professional orchestra, is challenging for the students, but they have given it their best efforts, Rangel said.
“For a high school orchestra, they’re a really great group,” Rangel said. “And they work really hard.”
After touring Armenia this summer with a chamber music group that is performing some of his work, Manukyan is planning on moving to Glendale to be closer to the Armenian community, and because he likes the city.
Audience members can expect “Images of Armenia” to sound like a series of dances.
“If they are Armenian, it would take them back to their homeland,” Manukyan said.