The Second “Renaissance” International Fes-tival-Contest of musician-performers took place in Gyumri from May 5 to 13. It gathered a huge number of guests both from Armenia and abroad in the historic center of Gyumri. The opening ceremony of the festival took place on May 5 in the V. Atjemian Drama Theater of Gyumri. It started with the “Lord’s Prayer” performed by the Armenian State Academic Orchestra under the direction of Maestro Hovaness Chekijian and with the reading of Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II's word of blessing. The festival dedicated to the 95th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide was held under the high patronage of the First Lady of the Republic of Armenia Mrs. Rita Sargsyan. The organizers of the festival-contest are the RA Culture Ministry, RA Education and Science Ministry, the “Pyunik” All-Armenian Fund for Human Resources Development, and the Gyumri branch of the Yerevan State Komitas Conservatory, “Shirak” benevolent fund. President of the “Pyunik” All-Armenian Fund and Head of the Yerevan State University Church History and Theology Chair Levon Sargsyan and Director of the Gyumri branch of the Yerevan State Komitas Conservatory and Founder of the “Renaissance” festival Karine Avdalian are the Co-Chairmen of the Festival. The festival is held with the sponsorship and financial support of “Pyunik” All-Armenian Fund for Human Resources Development, “South-Caucasian Railways” JSC, Electric Networks of Armenia, and Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU). A welcoming message to the participants of the festival was sent by AGBU President Mr. Berge Setrakian.

The festival symbolizing the cultural rebirth of Gyumri was first held in 2007. In 2009 it turned into an international festival and gathered more than 700 participants from different parts of the world. The 2009 festival was dedicated to the 140th anniversary of Komitas. This year’s festival was held as part of UNESCO’s “International Year of Rapprochement of Cultures”. More than 1000 musician-performers from Armenia, NKR, Russia, Lithuania, Latvia, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, China, France, Egypt, Iran and Cyprus, 8-28 years of age, participated in this festival competing in three age groups and six categories; piano, string instruments, wind instruments, academic singing, Armenian national instruments, and Armenian national singing.

Different events took place as part of the festival-contest including master classes, jubilee events dedicated to different notable events and prominent people, meetings and tours that foster cooperation among different local and international artists in the field of music.

A two day conference entitled “Armenia and the World Culture” took place on May 6-7 with the participThe jury of the festival includes such dignitaries as Alexander Garber (Georgia), Vladimir Dulov (Belarus), Raffi Kharajanian (Latvia), Medea Ab-rahamian (Armenia), Ernst Arakelov (Georgia), Sergey Matsoyan (Ukraine), Lina Najkyaline (Lithuania), and others.

During the closing ceremony on May 13, the absolute winners in each nomination in each age category were awarded Grand Prix: Karen Khachatrian (Armenian national singing, NKR), Arsen Mirzoyan (Armenian national instru-ments, Yerevan), Lala Mouradian (academic singing, Gyumri), Harutyun Khachatrian (wind instruments, Gyumri), Lizi Ramishvili (string instruments, Georgia), Yekaterina Gagnidze (piano, Georgia). Other participants received titles of laureate of the contest and diplomas. Jury of the festival can also awarded special prizes to individual participants.

The Gyumri Art Academy was built in 1997 and houses the Movie and Theater State Institute, and the Gyumri branches of the Yerevan State Komitas Conservatory and the Yerevan Art Academy. The plaque at the entrance of the Academy says; “This building was renovated by the funds provided by “Hayastan” All-Armenian Fund, Armenian General Benevolent Union and the money raised by the people during the pilgrimage of Loris Tjeknavorian to Gyumri in 1991”. This educational center, which started with less than 10 students 13 years ago, today has more than 200 future specialists in its six departments.

This is not AGBU’s first initiative in Shirak marz. After the earthquake the AGBU has fulfilled a number of projects in Gyumri: construction of the Gyumri school # 7, continuous financial support to the Lord Byron School and re-construction the school playground, centralized heating system at Gyumri school # 3 for handicapped children, establishment of the cold food storage, etc. Armenian General Benevolent Union provides regular donations to the “Huys” orphanage of Gyumri.

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