Vartan Gabrielian in Requiem—Photo by Taylor Long
COVID has been a time of loss for my family and me. 

In November of last year, my father passed from COVID (in Toronto). Then, my mentor—an Armenian priest— passed from COVID (in Lebanon). Then, my Uncle passed on from COVID (in Los Angeles). 

Like many others around the world, COVID has had an unsettling impact on my life. The priest and mentor who passed not only introduced me to classical music education at the Royal Conservatory of Music, but he helped fund my lessons from his own paycheck. When I was a young teenager, I was bouncing off the walls with energy, and no one had a clue how to deal with me. This priest recognized that my energy could be channelled into music and asked the chorus director at his church to teach me a solo—back then, I had a very high-pitched voice. And then, all of a sudden, my voice dropped. 

I’m a spiritual person— faith has always been at the core of my being. 

In the church choir, I learned to sing a lot of chants and hymns—and I loved singing in church. In fact, I became so passionate while singing that sometimes I’d be asked to take it down a notch. I became overwhelmed by the music. 

Shortly before COVID, this priest went to serve at an orphanage at the Holy Sea of Cicilia in Lebanon. I was meant to visit him a year ago, but then during the pandemic, he became very sick and went to emergency, where it took more than two days for him to be admitted because the hospital was overwhelmed. When we Facetimed, I could tell he was in poor health, but I had no idea that he would pass away two days later. 

For me, the men I have lost to COVID are not gone—I would argue they are even more present in my life today.

 

Requiem soloists Midori Marsh, Marion Newman, Andrew Haji, and Vartan Gabrielian—Photo by Taylor Long

Just singing and performing has never been enough for me. 

Opera is its own world, and I love that you can get so lost in it. You can be enchanted by opera; fall in love with it. And every now and then, you have to come back to reality.

I love the homework, the research, the history, the process, the practice, and the rehearsal—I love everything leading up to the performance, which makes the entire process just as rewarding as the performance itself.

Art serves people and feeds the soul. When I sing, I serve, and that’s my calling.

This Requiem means something to me that I can’t completely describe with my words. I have lost many dear family and friends to COVID. My father being the closest, and my priest being the man who found my talent. I lost my figurative father as well as my spiritual father—I dedicate this Requiem to them and to many others who have lost dear ones during this time. I hope that this performance can help commemorate and console the pain— to help with all of our much-needed healing that this difficult chapter in history has caused.

 

Learn more about Vartan here.

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