September 2008
Arlington Commemorates Hovhaness

Commemorative Committee formed to honor local composer Hovhaness

In March 1974 Hovhaness was visiting his hometown of Arlington, MA, to attend a two-day festival of his music. Dropping by his old high school (pictured right), some students were in the middle of practicing some of Hovhaness’ music when the composer entered the classroom, sat down at the piano and joined in the music making.

In the run up to the composer's birth centenary, Arlington High will again be honouring perhaps its most famous alumnus as part of the centennial celebrations planned by the local Alan Hovhaness Commemorative Committee, set up to remember the composer and one-time Arlington resident. One of the committee, Pasquale Tassone, a former Arlington resident and teacher at Arlington High commented that Hovhaness is “the most illustrious graduate from Arlington High School. He’s a major, major composer…and he published a tremendous amount of music”.

As well as Tassone, recently retired fine arts director for schools, other committee members working to honour the composer include Robert Mirak (president of the Armenian Cultural Foundation), Jack Johnston (neighbor of the Hovhaness family), Arthur Maranian, John Bilafer, Ara Ghazarian (curator of the aforementioned foundation), and Elizabeth Gregory (lifelong friend and supporter of the composer). It was Johnston, a neighbor of Hovhaness in the 1930s and good friend of his father, who proposed commemorating the composer’s centennial, so leading to the creation of the Alan Hovhaness Commemorative Committee.

Events currently planned include a lecture on September 25th by Tassone (to be held at Arlington’s Jason Russell House), and a benefit concert on October 5th, appropriately enough at 441 Mystic Street (the composer's work often had a strong mystical element to it). However, May 2009 should see the climax of the committee's efforts, with a dedication ceremony at Arlington High School followed by a Hovhaness concert. As a longer-lasting tribute to the local composer, the committee hopes that this series of events will culminate in a Hovhaness memorial plaque laid on the grounds of Arlington High School.

Back in 1974 when Hovhaness addressed the two-day festival of his music in Arlington, he spoke of music being "an art to join heaven and Earth". With the composer not being in physical attendance this time, those who remember him may be hoping that he will indeed be joining from elsewhere.

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