- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 May 2, 2003 

Milestone: Museum honors great composer, but no celebration of centennial yet

Letter collection ofAram Khachatryan prepared for the 100th anniversary and published by the director.

When in 1978 music conductor Gohar Harutyunyan was offered the position of director of a new museum dedicated to composer Aram Khachatryan, she was surprised at what she was being asked to oversee.

"When I first entered that place is was just a memorial house," she recalls. "The door was broken and trees in the garden were withered. We had taken 40 trucks of garbage out of there before we started construction of the museum building."

However, Harutyunyan's eyes sparkle and her voice rings when she speaks about the great composer.

"I devoted all my life to this work," she says. "I wonder myself on how much I have managed to do. But I am not exhausted. I think all days and nights long what else I should do not to overlook anything."

She has spent 25 years gathering material.

"I have written 1,500 letters within 25 years," she says. "Aram Khachatryan had been in 50-55 countries, and I started to get replies. I have got a lot of assistance in collecting letters from the Diaspora community those years."

Harutyunyan has collected 1,450 pictures of Khachatryan (who died in 1978), 7,000 articles, and 18,000 stories about him.

In 1983 and 1993, Harutyunyan published letters of the musician.

And this year, to mark the 100th anniversary of his birth, Harutyunyan has published Khachatryan's letters again, as well as museum catalogs in English, Armenian and Russian.

Absent any help from State organizations, Harutyunyan has published the materials through her own means.

The museum personnel are concerned that five months into the year, Armenia has not celebrated Khachatryan's centennial.

"If you ask our government officials what they have done for the wonderful composer of the 20th century you won't get answer," the director says. "And I can say I have founded a world-known museum."

Gohar Harutyunyan says every day has been eventful for 25 years.

Harutyunyan is also concerned that celebrations of Khachatryan's 100th anniversary have started since February outside Armenia, while they haven't in Armenia yet. She will travel to Boston in July for a Khachatryan celebration.

Harutyunyan has herself been honored for her work with the museum, including the Movses Khorenatsi medal on the museum's 20th anniversary.

And while the 100th anniversary is significant, she says every day for the past 25 years has been eventful. Concerts, competitions, seminars and meetings with famous musicians are being organized in the concert hall of the museum two or three times a week. About 15,000 guests visit the museum each year.

"We work all the time; we are not waiting till they will do something from above," Harutyunyan says. "We have always been active and will continue.

The museum has a significant collection of audio records. It was replenished with 2,500 CDs given by Canadian Armenian Latelye Grigorian. The French embassy also gave 350 CDs.

The museum mistress considers herself to be a heroine, while telling the story of bringing "Player" brand piano signed by Aram Khachaturyan from San Paulo.

"The piano belonged to Argentinean Armenian Tigran Mostijyan. He gave a big reception in honor of Aram Khachatryan in 1958 at his place.

Khachatryan has played there on his request, and then on the request of Mostijyan signed his second name with a nail," Harutyunian tells.

The composer "signed" a piano after a performance in Argentina. It now rests in his museum.

Today the piano is standing modestly in the museum's concert hall and keeps silence. Photos hanging on the wall talk instead. Aram Khachatryan with Charley Chaplin, Maxim Gorky, Sophia Loren, queen of Belgium Elizabeth II, Ernest Hemingway, Mark Chagal and other famous people.

Khachatryan's son Karen has given the main part of his father's personal items: furniture of the sleeping room, working room, and living room, the piano, conductor's dress coat, conductor's stick and many other items.

The museum itself has not been renovated over the 25 years. It was suggested that the building get renovation during the Lincy Fondation's cultural program throughout Armenia. But Harutyunyan says she could not interrupt the 100th anniversary by closing the museum for repairs, even though they are needed.

Temperature in the museum reaches minus 12 in wintertime and in spring ceiling tiles fall when the rains come.

"Aram Khachaturyan was the initiator of the foundation of the museum himself," Harutyunyan says. "In his opinion his museum had to be in Armenia. He has dreamt to give his manuscripts, letters, and valuable things 'to his people' as he was saying, which would prove his life, his creative work and international music fame."

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