Hamazkayin Armenian Educational & Cultural Society
The Toronto chapter of Hamazkayin Armenian Educational and Cultural Society (‘Hamazkayin’) was established in 1969 and the first event held in December, 1969 was dedicated to Father Komitas. The founding committee members are Apkar Mirakian, Shoushig Boyadjian, Jirair Hovhannesian, Vahe Mardirosian and the late Nerses Gedikian. Since its inception, the Toronto Chapter of Hamazkayin has grown to become a vibrant presence in the Toronto Armenian community, with over 200 volunteers participating in all aspects of cultural initiatives. ‘Klatsor’, as the chapter was named later, is home to the Hamazkayin ‘H. Manougian’ library, Hamazkayin Dance Academy and ‘Erepuni ’ Dance Ensemble, ‘George Sarkissian’ theatre, ‘Two Masks’ theatre, ‘Arshile Gorky’ Art Studio, Hamazkayin ‘Kousan’ and ‘Hye Asdgher’ choirs, Pomegranate Film Festival, ‘Hamazkayin’ theatre and the Literary club for youth. With weekly activities and cultural events that span throughout the year, Hamazkayin Klatsor chapter is the cultural hub of the Toronto Armenian community. In addition to its full plate of events and initiatives throughout the year, which includes performances by groups and artists from North America, Middle East, Europe and Armenia, Klatsor contributes to the success of various community events through its cultural programs, each year.
Committees & Programs
Hamazkayin Dance Academy was established in 2005 with the intent of educating youngsters in Armenian folk dance and training future dancers to join the Hamazkayin Erepuni Dance Ensemble. Over 100 hundred students ages 6 and up are enrolled each year. Following weekly practice sessions and hard work, they take the stage once a year delivering memorable performances.
Erepuni Dance Ensemble consists of youth ages 16 and up, who have received prior training, therefore have the necessary experience in performing Armenian folk dance. Erepuni has approximately 40 years of history; instructors such as Joe Avakian, Arsen Avedisian, as well as artistic directors such as Sergey Bedrosian have played a role in the Ensemble’s success, which for the past six years can be attributed to the talented instructor and artistic director Lori Najarian.
Erepuni has performed in numerous cities including Toronto, Montreal, Cambridge, Hamilton, as well as cities in Armenia and Georgia. The Ensemble takes part in cultural and national events throughout the year. In 2012, it participated in ‘My Armenia’, the bi-annual festival that attracts groups and ensembles from across the world, in Yerevan. In addition to its annual showcase, notable among Erepuni’s performances are its participation in the Ara Gevorgian concert at Roy Thomson Hall and its appearance at the Air Canada Centre.
Following Lori Najarian’s move to Armenia, effective February 2017, dance instructors and artistic directors are Arevik Martirosian and Arman Avoyan. Arevik and Arman are from Yerevan, Armenia; each has over twenty years of dance experience and together, they have toured many parts of the world as principal dancers in the legendary Bert Dance Ensemble.
Established in 1981, under the leadership of Maestro Edig Hovsepian, Kousan choir soon became one of the jewels of the Toronto Armenian community. Made up of over 100 members, Kousan toured many parts of North America. Following over 17 years of dedicated leadership, upon the retirement of Maestro Edig Hovsepian, ‘Kousan’ went through a period of inactivity.
Under the leadership of Maestro Hripsime Tovmasian, ‘Kousan’ is back to being an active participant in many of our cultural events throughout the year, along with annual performances by a cast of 60, typically held in the fall. Armenian classical, folk and national songs make up part of the program. Noteworthy is the contribution of piano accompanist Vanig Hovhannisian, whose dedication stems from decades back and continues until this day.
Upon Hripsime Tovmasian’s arrival, ‘Hye Asdgher’ was established as the Hamazkayin youth choir, where children ages 4 and up, participate in weekly practices and hold annual concerts. The choir has over 50 members and is divided into three groups, based on age. Participants learn to sing a variety of songs, thereby enhancing their vocal abilities; the program includes classical, folk and national songs of various degrees of difficulty. Practices are held weekly; ‘Hye Asdgher’ holds its annual concert in the summer.
Hamazkayin ‘Haroutiun Manougian’ library has over 3000 books and periodicals, in Armenian and English, as well as CDs, DVDs and souvenirs. It has been serving the Toronto Armenian community for over 40 years and is the provider of Armenian newly published books, to the Toronto Public Library.
The Library is located at the Armenian Community Centre and is open to the public weekly, on Fridays (8-11 p.m.) and Sundays (11 a.m. – 2 p.m.).
During its weekly schedule and through annual book fairs on site, as well as at the ARS Day School and during popular events, the Library is the largest resource centre in Ontario, for Armenian books as well as English books about Armenia and Armenians.
In addition to this, the Library committee also organizes book launches regularly throughout the year, thereby introducing newly published books and authors to the Toronto Armenian community.
Since its inception in 2005, the Hamazkayin Pomegranate Film Festival has grown to become a main attraction and highly anticipated event in Toronto. Its mission is to promote films about Armenia and Armenians, as well as films that are either directed or produced by an Armenian.
The ‘POM’ as it is known, attracts over 2000 viewers each year, some of whom arrive in Toronto from various other cities.
Over the course of three-four days, more than 35 films are screened. In addition to the screenings, the annual Gala attracts many and is the perfect opportunity for the community to interact with directors, actors, producers, screenwriters and film critics who arrive from many parts of the world. Atom Egoyan and Arsinée Khanjian are regulars at the Festival; their continuous support of the Festival has been evident since its inception; among other names, producer Silva Basmajian of the National Film Board of Canada has been a long-time member of the POM jury committee.
The roster of films includes Canadian premiers, North American premiers and award-winning films. As part of the Festival, the POM Grant is provided to an up-and-coming artist. The Festival is typically held at the ‘Hamazkayin’ theatre, Armenian Youth Centre, with some screenings held in other theatres in town. The Festival committee works tirelessly to deliver an unforgettable Festival each year. More information can be found at www.pomegranatefilmfestival.com
Theatre has been an integral part of Hamazkayin in Toronto; theatrical performances were held throughout the year by the ‘Georges Sarkissian’ theatre group and many directors contributed to its success, including Souren Chekijian, Jirair Injeyan, Movses Ashekian, Arsho Boyadjian Solakian and Levon Khangaltian. Classical and contemporary works were staged in Toronto and neighbouring cities for many years, thereby making theatre a regular part of the Toronto Armenian cultural life for decades.
Two Masks theatre committee was established in 2012, to help revive the spirit of theatre and encourage young, aspiring actors to join in. It consists of vibrant youth, who are bonded through their love of theatre. It also presents and hosts various plays and musical groups in the Hamazkayin Theater.
Following appearances in Toronto and Montreal, Two Masks is on the look for a talented director who can lead the ‘George Sarkissian’ theatre group into the future.
Literary events have formed part of the Toronto Armenian community, thanks to a dedicated group of members who have been able to keep the flame of Armenian literature and language alive for over four decades. Many literary icons have passed through Klatsor, among them Aram Haygaz, Hagop Garabents, Vahe Oshagan and the list goes on. On an annual basis, literary events are dedicated famous authors; Moushegh Ishkhan, Silva Gaboudigian, Yeghishe Charents, William Saroyan, Aram Haygaz, Vahe Oshagan, Baruyr Sevag to name a few. As well, poetry recitation contests and literary/musical evenings have been held over the years and continue to date.
Literary youth club was established in 2011, with the aim of providing a platform to aspiring youth to research the works of and present about their favourite author, thereby keeping Armenian literature alive among our youth.
To date, there have been over 40 presentations by approximately 20 youth members, some of whom have become active members of the Klatsor literary committee. Via regular gatherings throughout the year, individual and group presentations are made and discussions are had, focusing on a particular author, or themes such as female authors, authors during the Genocide years, love, parenthood, etc..
Klatsor chapter holds weekly workshops, for youth and adults, in an effort to encourage and promote the fine arts; both workshops are held on Saturdays.
Youth workshops are led by Natalie Seraydarian and include students at age 6 and up. Adult workshops are led by Sirak Melkonian.
More than 50 students take part in these workshops; participants display their work through annual exhibitions, held at the Hamazkayin ‘H. Manougian’ library.
In addition to this, exhibitions are held throughout the year, via the Arshile Gorky studio, showcasing the works of local talented painters and sculptors, as well as works of artists from Armenia, Artsakh and various parts of the world. To date, there have been over 80 individual and group exhibitions.