Remarks at Melody for Harmony Concert

Deputy Minister of Culture Nerses Ter-Vardanyan, Archbishop Aram Ateshian of the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople, distinguished guests and friends, let me warmly welcome you all, and thank you for joining us tonight for what I believe will be an unforgettable and unique concert filled with wonderful music.

Let me start by quoting the popular American musician, John Denver.  I hope I am not the only person in this theater tonight old enough to remember the late Mr. Denver, who was an acoustic singer who crossed from folk into popular music and rose to fame in the 1970s and 1980s.  He is remembered for such favorites as “Sunshine on my Shoulder,” “Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” and “Rocky Mountain High.”

He famously said – and I think this quote is particularly apropos tonight – that, “Music brings people together. It allows us to experience the same emotions. No matter what language we speak, what color we are, the form of our politics or the expression of our love and our faith, our shared love of music proves we are the same.” I think that message will resonate with all of us tonight, as we enjoy the Armenian and Turkish musical collaborations performed by The Beautified Project, Sibil, and four Turkish folk musicians: Yurdál Tókjan, Góksel Baktagéer, Boorak Malchok, and Mert Élmas.

Tonight is about music, about great music, flowing melodies, rhythmic playing, and lyrical singing.  We’ll have the opportunity to hear new arrangements of old favorites as well as an original song, “Don’t Blame Me,” which the musicians created specifically to celebrate this Armenian-Turkish cultural exchange.  “Don’t Blame Me” will be performed for the very first time tonight, on this stage, and will also be performed in Istanbul next week.

But I want to emphasize that while tonight is about music, it is also about so much more. We all know this year marked a tragic 100 year anniversary. But we also know that the Armenian people and the Turkish people share so much – cultural connections, historical ties. These ties are being rebuilt through the work of brave and creative voices on both sides of the border. Voices that, like those we will hear tonight, want to celebrate what unites.  Voices that recognize, ultimately, we are all connected; we are all brothers and sisters.

I salute the talented and inspiring musicians who we are about to welcome onto this stage, for they have come together tonight not only to entertain us with their beautiful music, but – as cultural ambassadors of their countries – to promote dialogue and build bridges between the Turkish and Armenian peoples through the power of art.

Thank you all again for joining us tonight. Please sit back and get ready for a great show. I would like to start by inviting Andre Simonian of The Beautified Project to take the stage.