Leaning over the black piano, poised with that special tension common to great musicians, Sahan Arzruni opened his performances with poignant chords that reverberated like a tender conversation. These conversations skimmed through six major cities of Armenia and Artsakh: Gyumri, Vanadzor, Berd, Ashtarak, Goris and Stepanakert.

Arzruni’s three-week tour entitled “Keyboard Conversations” made its first stop in Gyumri on May 12. “I’ve performed benefit concerts in Yerevan before. The idea of holding benefit concerts sparked a year ago. [This time,] I’ve concentrated on towns outside of Yerevan and will play and work with rural kids,” said Sahan Arzruni in a recent interview with local media declaring that his relationship with music and children had been longstanding. The benefit tour took place under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture of Armenia and Artsakh, and was organized by the Fund for Armenian Relief (FAR).

Surrounded by an atmosphere of grace and appreciation, the great philanthropist’s music trilled up and down the piano, touching the heart of even the most demanding listeners.

In a video captured in the city of Ashtarak while Arzruni performed a series of songs, the renowned pianist remarked to a journalist, “We should all know the roots of our music and composers. Before each performance, I communicate with the audience and explain the message and content of the songs. This is my approach of delivering music; it makes me and my audience feel satisfied.”

Arzruni’s passion for music comes from the creative environment in which he grew up. His aunt – the famous composer and pianist Sirvart Karamanuk – was the first to notice his talent and sent him to the local music school in his native Constantinople (Istanbul). At the age of 21, Sahan Arzruni moved to New York and studied at the Juilliard School.

The famous pianist has enjoyed a reputation as a recitalist, chamber music partner and soloist with orchestras. He has recorded over twenty albums, focusing on repertoire created by Armenian composers – both local and diasporan. His piano recitals and concerts have long been designed to benefit the Vanadzor Old Age Home (VOAH)* residents in Armenia. In 2013, Sahan Arzruni’s performance of Khachaturian was selected by the Republic of Armenia’s Ministry of Culture for inclusion in a special set of recordings marking the very best of Armenian musical talent. In 2016, when Arzruni received the “Movses Khorenatsi Medal” from president Serzh Sargsyan for contributing to the strengthening of cultural links between Armenia and the Diaspora, he felt the “need to reciprocate, and the idea of communicating with the Armenian little musicians came to mind.”

Sahan Arzruni has toured the world, but found that playing with young Armenian students to be a fascinating experience. Prior to each concert, the pianist held master classes for them and enjoyed working with them and interacting with them. He also included duets with young musicians in each concert to reach across generations.

The tour repertoire included Komitas, Arno Babajanyan, Aram Khachatryan, Kara-Murza, Tigran Mansuryan, as well as Sahan Arzruni’s own compositions. Following each concert, the acclaimed musician was beseeched for an encore, and responded to the audience’s enthusiasm each time.

*The Vanadzor Old Age Home (VOAH) is a FAR project sponsored by the Kevork and Sirvart Karamanuk Foundation and supported by the Women’s Guild Central Council of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern).