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Armenian Songs in Constantinople & New York, 1914​-​26

by Armenag Shah-Mouradian

Caroun 02:46
Groung 03:21
Hayasdan 03:20
Pamp Porodan 02:48
Mayr Araksie 03:18
Sirouhis 03:28
Ourakh Ler 02:42
Kele Kele 03:19
Andouni 04:05
Aror Dedrak 03:49
Hov Arek 03:51
Giligia 03:47
Ov Zarmanali 02:49
Nor Alagiaz 03:05
Dele Yaman 03:09


Armenag Shah-Mouradian (sometimes Chah-Mouradian and other variants) was born April 7, 1878 in Muş, an eastern Ottoman town of about 20,000 people divided roughly in half between Christians and Muslims. He was exceptionally talented and popular singer among Armenians in the 1910s-20s, with a long and complicated career and is remembered as a protege of the great composer and patriarch of Armenian music Komitas Vartabet (nee Soghomon Soghomonyan, born 1869 in Kütahya).

A biographical article on him written by our frequent collaborator Harry Kezelian and published online by the Armenian Museum of America is our primary source and goes into much greater detail than these notes.

To summarize his career as it relates to these recordings, Shah-Mouradian had studied liturgical music under Komitas as early as 1892. Following three months imprisoned in Tblisi, Georgia for his revolutionary activities as part of the Hunchag political party, Shah-Mouradian began to devote himself increasingly to European art music, while continuing to attend political rallies and demonstrations. He was arrested again in 1897 and transferred from one jail to another before being released to his native Muş, thanks to the intervention of Fuad Bey, the Turkish consul general, who recognized the 22-year-old musician’s talent. After several years directing a church choir, he moved to Paris in 1904, where he reconnected with Komitas, who was visiting at the time, and studied at the Schola Cantorum under Vincent d’Indy (born. March 27, 1851), contemporary with Erik Satie, and privately with Pauline Viardot (born 1821), who taught him gratis. She herself was from a line of musicians under the fraternal Garcia name tracing back to connections with Mozart and had been a student of Franz Liszt and had already composed, among many other works, a “Suite Armenienne” for four-handed piano.

Shah-Mouradian’s break was his starring role in Gounod’s Faust at the Grand Opera. He subsequently toured Europe and visited Constantinople in 1913, where he stayed with Komitas and the painter Panos Terlemezian. There he made his first 22 recordings in early 1914 for the Orfeon label, divided evenly between European repertoire and Armenian songs accompanied by Komitas on piano and organ on all but two of them. Unable to return to Paris during the war, Shah-Mouradian, his French-born wife Marguerite, and daughter Evelyn fled to New York City in the last week of December, 1914. He began touring the U.S. the following year.

For over three years, October 1915 to March 1919, he toured the U.S. sporadically with the Armenian-American soprano Zabelle Panosian, largely in benefit for Armenian causes. It was during that time that both of them made their recordings for Columbia. Among the earliest of their joint performances was announced by the The Michigan Daily (Ann Arbor) on Feb 18, 1916 as an Armenian Concert at Hill Auditorium featuring A. Shah-Mouradian of the Paris Grand Opera, tenor; Miss Rose Hagoyian of New York City, dramatic soprano; Mrs. Zabelle Pansosian of Boston, lyric soprano; and violinist Krikor Aiqouni (born ca. 1886 in Tarsus) of Syracuse, violinist:

The proceeds of this evening’s concert, together with the proceeds of the Detroit concert which is to be given at the Garrick theatre Sunday, will be used in relieving the suffering among the Armenian refugees in Russia. The Armenian Students’ association will ask Mr. Robert A. Campbell, treasurer of the university, to forward the money to the katholicoa, the head of the Armenian national church to use at his discretion.
Although the majority of the seats for tonight’s concert have been sold, several good seats are yet to be had […] It is expected that several thousand dollars will be realized from this concert and the Detroit concert.
Mr. Shah-Mouradian, the young Armenian tenor, is an artist of international fame. From the time when he was graduated from the Conservatory of Paris, receiving the first prize, his career has been a steady rise, and he is now a leading tenor in the Paris Grand Opera. Before the war, he made a tour of the principal cities of Europe and was very well received everywhere.
Mr. Shah-Mouradian made his debut with the Grand Opera in Faust soon after his graduation. This brought him an invitation to take leading tenor parts in the Grand Opera. His debut brought him 22,000 francs, equal to about $4,400 - this after a strenuous life as a poor student who had come to Paris penniless. After his debut, Le Petit Journal said that he was ‘endowed with a most beautiful voice, and already master of a wonderful art,’ while La Petite Republique declared, ‘He proved that he is a wonderful singer. The opera has few such charmingly and masterfully managed voices.’
Mr. Shah-Mouradian is at present on his first tour of the United States, and the committee considers itself fortunate in securing him.

On June 19, 1916, Shah-Mouradian made a trial recording for the Victor Records company in Camden, New Jersey, performing “Krisdos Badarakial” accompanied by staff pianist and arranger Edward T. King. It was a hymn arranged by Yekmalian that Shah-Mouradian had previously recorded in Constantinople. It did not result in a recording contract. So, instead, following closely in Panosian's footsteps, Shah-Mouradian entered the Columbia Graphophone's studio in the newly-completed, imposing 60-story Woolworth Building at 233 Broadway in southern Manhattan, then the tallest building in the world with coal-fueled elevators that ran six days a week. There, in one or two takes, he recorded eight performances around May of 1917, followed by another four in September including a relatively expensive 12" disc release - "Andouni" / "Aror Dadrak." A final Columbia session in May 1918 yielded four more song, two of which were sped up by the label to be issued as cheaper (85 cents to a dollar) a 10" disc release rather than as a 12" disc ($1.50).

Shah-Mouradian continued to tour the U.S. and Europe through the late-20s, giving concerts in a half-dozen different languages, and self-releasing two discs around 1926 in the U.S. before gradually moving back to Paris, where his mentor Komitas suffered from paranoia and depression in psychiatric institutions and ultimately died in 1935. Shah-Mouradian himself died in a Parisian psychiatric facility in 1939. His wife Marguerite was interned in France by the Germans in 1942.

Shah-Mouradian was lamented in William Saroyan's 1979 book Obituaries and decades earlier in his poem "To the Voice of Shah-Mouradian" including the lines, referring specifically to the recording "Mayr Araksie:"

No art is lost and yours shall never be,
For when you sing, you sing at least for me.
And when at last my mortal day is done
Remember, friend, that I shall leave a son,
Tutored to seek the glory of his race
(Wherever he may go, to what strange place)
In your clear voice, which is the very pith
Of our old legend and our deathless myth.


released December 13, 2021

Tracks 1-4 recorded in early 1914 in Constantinople. Komitas Vartapet plays piano.
Tracks 5-12 recorded ca. May 1917 in New York City
Tracks 13-17 recorded September 1917 in New York City
Tracks 18-20 recorded May 1918 in New York City
Tracks 21-24 recorded ca. 1926 in the United States

Known or attributed composers and arrangers:
Track 4: lyrics by Hairabed Janigian
Track 5: lyrics by Hovhannes Mirza-Vanandets; composition by Kapriel Yeranian; arranged by Komitas Vartabet
Track 8: attributed to Magar Yegmalian
Track 10: arranged by Magar Yegmalian
Track 19: arranged by Komitas Vartabet
Track 20: lyrics by Nahabed Rousinian; composition by Kapriel Yeranian; arranged by Komitas Vartabet
Tracks 21, 22: Komitas Vartabet
Tracks 23, 24: attributed to V. Servantsdiantz

Tracks 1-4 transferred by engineers at the Soviet Melodiya label and issued as an LP in 1975.
Tracks 5-24 Transferred and restored from 78rpm discs by Ian Nagoski

Research by Harry Kezelian, Harout Arakelian, and Ian Nagoski.
Cover image ca. April 8, 1917 from Arpena S. Mesrobian's book Like One Family: The Armenians of Syracuse (Gomidas Institute, 2000).
Standing, rear (left to right): S. Nigsarian, violinist Krikor Aiquoni, Armenag Shah-Mouradian, Jasper Abajian.
Seated, front (left to right): Zabelle Panosian, Mannig Zahrajian Bedrosian, Satenig Apikian
From the collection of Walter and Mianzara Eckhoff.

Transliterations from the original disc labels, where known, have been retained.
Thanks to the Armenian Museum of America, Kris Markarian, and Steve Smolian.


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