By Assadour Guzelian
H. R. Highness The Prince of Wales hosted a Gala Concert and Dinner in support of Dumfries House and Yerevan My Love at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday, 15th June 2011.
The evening, which was sponsored by Dr. & Mrs.Armen Sarkissian and family (the founder of Yerevan My Love and the former Prime Minister of Armenia) raised ?1.7 million at last year's event held at Windsor Castle. It is expected that this year's donations will exceed that figure.
Present at the event were:, Tigran Sargsian (the Prime Minister of Armenia), Karen Karapetian (Mayor of Yerevan city), Charles Aznavour, Berj Setrakian (President of the A.G.B.U) and Lord Ara Darzi (the former U.K Health Minister). Many well known Armenian and non-Armenian benefactors were also present, including Vatche Manoukian and Haig Didizian. There were guests from Armenia, Russia, USA, Europe and a group from Kazakhstan accompanied by Dr.Dariga Nazarbayeva, the daughter of Noursultan Nazarbayev, President of Kazakhstan.
The evening commenced at 7pm with a reception followed by the Gala Concert. The programme included works by; Handel, Mozart, Komitas, Yekmalian and Bernstein.
It was an enjoyable concert masterfully performed by internationally renowned musicians such as: The Bach Choir, London Philharmonia Orchestra, Maxim Vengerov (violin) Ren?e Fleming (soprano), David Hill and Sergey Smbatyan (conductors). “Krounk” by Komitas was performed by Maxim Vengerov and the orchestra, conducted by S. Smbatyan. David Hill conducted the Bach Choir who sang “Sourb Sourb” and “Hayr Mer” by Yekmalian Both received prolonged applause from an appreciative audience.
After thanking the artists, Dr. Armen Sarkissian expressed his gratitude to His Royal Highness and the Royal Family for the kind support extended to “The Dumfries House / Yerevan My Love” project. Dr. Sarkissian congratulated Prince Charles on behalf of the guests attending the Gala Concert on the happy occasion of Prince William's marriage to Kate Middleton. He made special reference to the love, care and attention given by His Royal Highness to his two sons in bringing them up.
“Restoring the Past to Build the Future” was the theme of Dr. Armen Sarkissian's speech:
“This evening we shall all be a part of a unique moment in the history of British-Armenian relations. Such relations go back centuries where strong friendships were formed and maintained. The siege of Acre during the Third Crusade is one of many examples of this strong bond when King Levon II of Cilician Armenia fought alongside Richard the Lionheart in 1191. Today, our long and rich histories of artistic creativity and cultural heritage continue to complement each other.
The projects that we are supporting today combine both elements of our heritage: the physical restoration of significant buildings and heart of the human community, with a focus on the children that will bear the future we leave behind. Our charitable journey for the benefit of Dumfries House and Yerevan My Love started last year at Windsor Castle through the patronage of His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales and has brought us to the magnificent home of Her Majesty the Queen.
Yerevan My Love is a heritage-led regeneration project dedicated to preserving architecturally significant buildings in Yerevan and putting them to use to improve the life experience of disabled children, young people and disadvantaged families. Following the successful fundraising in 2010, three buildings in the vicinity of St. Hovhanes Church in the Kond neighbourhood of Yerevan are being built and reconstructed. Three additional architecturally significant buildings will be reconstructed in the Old Yerevan neighbourhood as part of the second phase of Yerevan My Love project, supported by the fundraising in 2011.
The world is becoming smaller and increasingly more burdened with human conflicts, economic challenges and environmental concerns. What kind of future do we want for our children? This is both a very personal and global question, which in my opinion, is our ultimate quest as a human society to fulfill positively. Along with a cleaner and more sustainable environment, the preservation of cultural and nature and spiritual heritage is vital for the survival of any nation and, indeed, for humanity.
I wish to thank His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, first, for his visionary leadership and foresight in many critical issues facing not only Britain but also the entire globe. We thank him for his full support and cooperation in making this night a very special occasion.
We would also like to thank the benefactors, patrons and sponsors for their generous support and contributions, but most important, for their participation and faith in the charitable journey we undertake together. The international array of participation is a wonderful example of global cooperation in charity and heritage preservation.
Our special thanks go to the artists, the performers, the Philharmonic Orchestra and the Bach Choir for the very special program this evening, as well as to all those who have worked hard to make this evening a memorable one.”
In his speech, the Prince of Wales thanked the artists and everyone present, particularly Dr. Armen and Mrs. Nouneh Sarkissian, for their generous contribution in making the evening a great success:
“It gives me the greatest pleasure to be able, to welcome you all to this very special occasion at Buckingham Palace and to have the opportunity to give my thanks to those of you who have so kindly donated to “Yerevan my Love” and Dumfries House.
Some of you were generous enough to support these two important heritage charities last year, but for those unfamiliar with their work I did just want to emphasize the enormous difference your support will make.
Both in Yerevan and in East Ayrshire, South-West Scotland, the intention is to use the preservation and restoration of the wonderful heritage that has been left to us by our forebears to create and enhance communities, employment and prosperity. In other words, to use the rich architectural and craft heritage of both Armenia and Scotland as a catalyst and model for heritage-led regeneration.
I am delighted to say that real progress is being made. When at Dumfries House at the beginning of the month, I was able to see the newly restored rooms and the repaired and refurbished Stables and Coachhouse, which have been converted into an education centre and cafe. While, in Yerevan, the construction of three buildings adjacent to St. Hovhaness Church in the Kond neighbourhood began in April and will provide support for disadvantaged families and children.
None of this could have been achieved without your marvellous support and my special gratitude is due to you all for your generosity ? in particular to Armen Sarkissian and his wife, Nouneh, without whom this wonderful evening would not be taking place.
The evening is, of course, also an occasion to strengthen the strong ties and friendship between Armenia and the United Kingdom. I have long admired Armenia as the oldest Christian nation in the world, with its unique architectural heritage. It is so heartening that the “Yerevan my Love” project is preserving and continuing traditional Armenian architecture and craftsmanship.”
Following the concert, the guests enjoyed a delightful dinner, during which were served excellent wines and Armenian brandy supplied by the Ararat Brandy Company. The famous 3 GRACIA dessert wine was supplied by Razmik Tevonian of Yeraskh Wine and Brandy Factory, which also produces the famous VERNATOUN wines and TIGRAN METS brandy. This highly enjoyable evening ended at 10.45 pm.
Dr. Armen and Mrs. Nouneh Sarkissian and their supporters deserve every credit not only for organizing “Yerevan My Love” – an important charitable evening, but also for introducing Armenian history, art and culture to the international circles.
Published in Azad-Hye with permission