Professor Leon Janikian received an unexpected last minute request on Easter Sunday. He was asked to play clarinet for a special dinner honoring Serge Sargysan, President of Armenia, who was in Massachusetts on his way to a conference in Washington, DC. The performance was at St. James Armenian Church in Watertown.
On Sunday March 27th, while preparing Easter Dinner, I got a text to call a member of the Committee planning the event. I was told that the President would appreciate having some live music during a special dinner for his entourage and about 70 dignitaries. I was very pleased to accept and planned a program of classic Armenian music in the folk tradition that I know would resonate for the President and his entourage. It was important to select carefully, there being a tradition of music in the Diaspora that would not be familiar to Armenians living in the “homeland”. I was to perform for 42 minutes total. Needless to say, I had to undergo a thorough security check, especially my clarinets and their ancillary items in addition to a short interview. During the performance I was situated very close to the President and his wife, both of whom gave me nodding approval and smiles of recognition. Following the performance two security guards complemented me and invited me to have a photo with the President, who thanked me and gave me a quick squeeze on my arm. I must say, I was thrilled to have had the opportunity and very pleased that my performance was so well received.
Leon further explained that his selection of repertoire had to take into account cultural, religious, and political divisions among Armenians. As an accomplished clarinetist and a scholar of Armenian music, Leon was the ideal person to navigate these sensitive issues, while still giving an artistically satisfying performance.