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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

March 1, World-famous painter to join URI ensemble in commemorating Armenian genocide

Kevork Mourad paints to music

KINGSTON, R.I. –Painting is usually a solitary craft, pursued in a quiet studio or loft. World-famous artist Kevork Mourad paints in a public setting – and to music.

Mourad will bring his unique style to the University of Rhode Island March 1 during a concert to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide.

The Syrian-raised artist will paint to music performed by URI’s Symphonic Wind Ensemble and the Armenian Folk Chamber Ensemble. The concert, conducted by Gene Pollart, will start at 3 p.m. in the Fine Arts Center. 

“Kevork is a world-class artist and the opportunity to see him perform at URI is unprecedented,’’ says Theodore Mook, publicity coordinator and a cello teacher in the music department. “Also, we're honoring a terrible historical event that gets overlooked.’’

Raised in Syria and of Armenian origin, Mourad, who lives and works in New York, is known for spontaneously painting to music on a public stage. His paintings are also exhibited in galleries and museums throughout the world.

He is a teaching artist with cellist Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road project and has performed at the Rhode Island School of Design, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Chelsea Museum of Art, Le Festival du Monde Arabe in Montreal, the Stillwater Festival, the Nara Museum in Japan, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Central Park’s Summerstage with the Silk Road Ensemble and Bobby McFerrin.

Mourad will paint during the entire concert at URI, and his work will be projected on a screen while he paints. His paintings will be displayed later in the Fine Arts Gallery.

The first half of the concert will feature the Armenian chamber ensemble, a seven-member New England group that performs traditional Armenian songs. 

In the second half, the URI ensemble will perform the world premiere of "Wind Chimes for 1915,’’ composed by Kenneth Kalajian, of East Greenwich, whose son, Charles, is a graduate student in conducting at URI. (Charles, as well as Kenneth’s other son, John, will perform with the Armenian ensemble, as will Kenneth.)

“It’s an honor to have the Symphonic Wind Ensemble perform the world premiere of my piece,’’ says the elder Kalajian. “Just as the wind is eternal, it gently breaks the darkness of the past and forever propels the memory of our ancestors.’’

The wind ensemble will also perform Frenergy by John Estacio, Amazing Grace by Frank Ticheli, Armenian Dances by Alfred Reed and Puszta by Jan Van der Roost.

Pauline Getzoyan, of Lincoln, and Kenneth’s wife, Esther, approached the music department about having a concert to commemorate the genocide. Pauline and Esther are teaching an honor’s seminar at URI about Armenian history.

Between 1915 and 1918, up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman authorities in what is now eastern Turkey. Many Armenian men were arrested and killed, and women and children perished during forced marches to the Syrian desert. 

The massacre was carried out during and after World War I amid fears that Christian Armenians in the Muslim Ottoman Empire were a threat to the state for allegedly siding with the Russians, at war with the Turks.

General admission to the URI concert is $12. Admission is $7 for students, and children under 12 are free.

URI’s Department of Music offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in music and music education. For more information, call 401-874-2431 or visit the department’s website or Facebook page.

Pictured above: Artist Kevork Mourad will paint to music during a concert at the University of Rhode Island March 1 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide. Photo courtesy of Kevork Mourad.