Central and Eastern Europe, Diplomacy, International Journalism and PR

Celebration of the Anniversary of the First Armenian Republic

Tsirani Tsar ©communications-unlimited.nl

Beata Bruggeman-Sekowska

On May 25 an Armenian foundation Ani organized a wonderful concert entitled ”Colours of Armenia” performed by an amazing project choir from Amsterdam Tsirani Tsar to celebrate the anniversary of the First Armenian Republic at the Surp Karapet Church, an Armenian apostolic church building, in the Dutch city of Maastricht.

The concert was attended by the Armenian as well as Dutch and international community. During the concert which consisted of two parts and lasted around 2 hours the Dutch choir Tsirani Tsar performed songs in Armenian and Armenian music from all corners of Armenia. Tsirani tsar is led by the Dutch choir conductor Ivo Boswijk and Ruzanna Hakobyan, an Armenian musician, is the musical advisor.

Mr Vasken Sarkis welcomed the public and in his welcome speech he presented a historic outline of the First Armenian Republic.

Tsirani Tsar ©communications-unlimited.nl

Mr. Vasken Sarkis, lawyer and member of the board of the Armenian Foundation Ani ©communications-unlimited.nl

Mr. Levon Sarkis president of the Armenian Foundation Ani ©communications-unlimited.nl

From the left. Mr. Aloys Bruggeman, honorary consul of the Republic of Lithuania, Mr. Vasken Sarkis, lawyer and the board member of the Armenian Ani Foundation and Mr. Benoit Wesly, honorary consul of Israel ©communications-unlimited.nl

After the concert the words of thanks were presented by Mr Levon Sarkis president of the Armenian Foundation Ani, Mr. Zadik Avedikian deacon of Belgium Mr. Տեր Աստվածատուր Քհն  (Fr Astvatsatur), priest of the Armenian Apostolic church.

From the left: Mr. Vasken Sarkis, lawyer, board member of the Armenian foundation Ani, and Mr. Zadik Avedikian deacon of Belgium©communications-unlimited.nl

From the left: Mr. Vasken Sarkis, lawyer, board member of the Armenian foundation Ani , MrՏեր Աստվածատուր Քհն  (Fr Astvatsatur) priest, Mr. Zadik Avedikian deacon of Belgium©communications-unlimited.nl

From the left: Mr. Vasken Sarkis, lawyer, board member of the Armenian foundation Ani, Mr. Տեր Աստվածատուր Քհն  (Fr Astvatsatur), priest ©communications-unlimited.nl

From the right: Ms Maria van Zutphen and Ms. Beata Bruggeman-Sekowska ©communications-unlimited.nl

Tsirani tsar means apricot tree. The apricot is the national fruit and tree of Armenia. Ivo Boswijk ( on the photo with the guitar) is a composer, arranger and conductor, specialized in music from Eastern Europe. He trained at the Sweelinck Conservatory in Amsterdam and has been associated with Slavuj since 1998, first as a singer and arranger, later also as a conductor. From 2004 to 2017, in addition to Slavuj, Ivo also led the Bulgarian-language choir Čubrica. With both choirs he toured Bulgaria and with Slavuj also through Poland, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Armenia and Georgia. He works with the Armenian musician Ruzanna Hakobjan at the Tsirani Tsar project choir.

Tsirani Tsar ©communications-unlimited.nl

Ruzanna Hakobyan, ( on the photo with the Qanon) born in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, has been playing the piano and qanon, an Armenian classical stringed instrument, since she was four years old. She graduated from the Komitas State Conservatory of Yerevan, where, in addition to Qanon, she specialized in harmony, solfège and orchestral conducting. She has performed as a solo artist both in Armenia and abroad with various ensembles and artists. Since 2003 she has lived in the Netherlands, where she teaches at her own piano school and is regularly asked to perform solo with the qanon. She is associated with Tsirani Tsar’s project as an artistic advisor, source of inspiration and musician. As an artistic advisor, Ruzanna is indispensable with her knowledge of Armenian culture, language, pronunciation and translations. She also provides translations into Dutch, so that the choristers know what they are expressing.

Armenian Foundation Ani and Maastricht-Armenian relations

The Armenian Ani Foundation was officially established on November 25, 1999 in Maastricht, in the southern region of the Netherlands, Limburg. The foundation is named after the historic Armenian capital Ani (961AD). Because of the many churches within its walls, Ani was also called the City of 1001 Churches and the current ruined city is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. There are very strong relations between Armenia and Maastricht. Saint Servatius, born in Armenia in the fourth century, brought Christianity to the Netherlands and was the first bishop of Maastricht. He died there around 384. The Basilica of St. Servatius was built on his grave. His feast day is May 13. In honor of Saint Servatius, there is the Saint Servatius procession in Maastricht on the first Sunday after this date. The Armenian community also participates in this.

In 2016, the Armenian community in Maastricht donated a monument to the city of Maastricht in honor of Saint Servatius. The 2.5 meter high monument is a traditional Armenian chathkar, a standing cross stone, and is placed against the Basilica of St. Servatius. On January 26, 2013 the first Armenian church in Limburg was opened and consecrated in Maastricht. The church called ‘Surp Karapet’ (Holy Forerunner) serves as a connecting factor between the Armenian community and the region. Armenians indicate that they feel connected to Limburg and would like to integrate. The services are public and everyone is welcome.

It is interesting to point out that the Dominican Church in Maastricht contains part of the oldest fresco in the Netherlands by Thomas Aquinas presenting 10,000 Armenian martyrs. In addition, a cross from Surb Giragos Church from Diyarbakir and various other objects can be found in the treasury of St. Servatius Basilica.

In 1993, the first small gatherings of the Armenian community were held in the Maris Stella building in the Witte Vrouwenveld in Maastricht. As more Armenians settled in the city and its immediate vicinity, the need for a fixed structure in meetings and activities also increased. That is why the the Armenian Ani Foundation was officially established. The Armenian Ani Foundation is the largest cultural institution in the entire region (Dutch Limburg, Belgian Limburg, Liège and Aachen). Thanks to the efforts of the foundation, the city of Maastricht has become known among Armenians at home and abroad and the grave of Saint Servatius has become a place of pilgrimage.

Our central and Eastern Europe Center would like to thank the Ani Foundation for the invitation to this wonderful event and their amazing hospitality.

Author: Beata Bruggeman-Sękowska is an award-winning international journalist, TV correspondent, author, chief editor of international journalism centre, Central and Eastern Europe Centre, president of the European Institute on Communist Oppression and a sworn translator. She was born in Warsaw, Poland and has also Armenian blood and roots in Lvov, which is part of Ukraine. She has been living in Heerlen, the Netherlands since 2005.

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