Times Union, Albany, NY
Dec 2 2004

Underscoring a dark time in history

Night devoted to Armenian music and culture has a reference point in
genocide of 1915

By DAVID FILKINS, Staff writer
First published: Thursday, December 2, 2004

TROY -- Ralph Enokian doesn't make a peep as he conducts the Armenian
Men's Choral Ensemble, but becomes a chatterbox when lecturing about
the Armenian Genocide at local schools.
The former director of music for the Shenendehowa Central School
District uses entertainment and history to bring his relatively
unknown homeland to light.

Enokian, whose descendants came from the small country in
southwestern Asia, is one of four prominent Armenians bringing their
country's music and culture to the Capital Region. On Saturday,
Rensselaer Newman Foundation will host "Armenian Arts and Culture

Joining Enokian on stage will be award-winning opera and concert
singer Sylvia Kutchukian and Rev. Dr. Mihran Kupeyan, author,
historian, pastor and advocate for the acknowledgment of the Armenian

Kutchukian will be accompanied by pianist Charles Moore and Kupeyan
will give a talk entitled "Armenians, People of Ararat." Troy Mayor
Harry Tutunjian, himself an Armenian American, will be giving the
opening remarks.

The program is being presented by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's
Chapel and Cultural Center in association with area Armenian

"Armenia has a rich history and we really wanted to raise awareness
of the country," said Eric Smith, director of the Chapel and Cultural
Center. "We want to provide a program with interesting points in
arts, culture, religion and music. The local Armenian population is
bigger than people might think."

That number is roughly 2,000, according to Rafi Topalian, founder of
the Capital District Armenian Genocide Committee. Aside from
celebrating cultural contributions, Armenians want such events to
bring a dark part of their history to light.

More than 1.5 million Armenians were killed by the Turkish Ottoman
Empire in 1915. Topalian said the Armenian Genocide served as the
model for Adolf Hitler's similar plight 30 years later. Turkey denies
the genocide occurred, attributing the deaths to civil war in the
region. Half of the Armenian population was lost in the bloodshed.

"Like the phoenix rising from the ashes, we want to rise above the
dark part in our history," Topalian said. "We are willing to forgive
but we will never forget. We really just want what happened to be

Topalian, who is also a singer in Enokian's choir, said the Capital
District Armenian Genocide Committee is planning a commemoration at
the Well of the Capitol on April 25 to commemorate the 90th
anniversary of the genocide.

Enokian retired from Shenendehowa in 1999 after 34 years as the
director of music, but continues to teach, appearing at local schools
during Armenian history lessons. He said he has a responsibility to
raise awareness because his grandparents were victims of the brutal

His eight-man ensemble features various styles of music, almost
entirely in Armenian, but does two songs in English "just to show
that we can."

"The end product is the re-creation of beautiful Armenian culture,"
Enokian said. "We show our love for Armenian music, culture and being
Armenian Americans."

The program begins at 7:30 p.m. and is free to the public. Armenian
food will be provided and any donations will be given to the State
Museum's Armenian Cultural Series and to Armenian orphanages.