May 2009
Hovhaness Plaque Unveiled in Arlington, MA

Hometown honors composer as birth centenary approaches

On May 17th 2009, Arlington, Massachusetts honored its most famous musical son with the unveiling of a memorial plaque on the grounds of the Jefferson Cutter House in Arlington center. This event, with town officials in attendance, was followed up with musical offerings from local and visiting musicians at the Arlington Town Hall Robbins Auditorium.

The plaque is headed “In Honor of Alan Hovhaness 1911-2000” and appropriately cites from the Arlington High School Yearbook of 1929, where Hovhaness stated “Of all the arts, music is the art to raise the soul above all earthly storms”. Funding for the plaque was shared between the local Alan Hovhaness Commemorative Committee and the Arlington Cultural Council, which contributed a grant of $1,500.

This event saw the coming to fruition of a vision long-held by Arlington resident Dr. Jack Johnston, who for years has campaigned for a memorial to Hovhaness in the composer’s home town. Johnston knew Hovhaness’ Armenian father over many years as his neighbor on Blossom Street, and as a boy had known Hovhaness before the composer left for New York in the late 1940s. Hovhaness’ father did not initially sympathize with his son’s musical calling, but became immensely proud years later when in the 1950s his son began to acquire prestigious performances, recordings and, in particular, an honorary doctorate from Bates College.

The concert which followed the unveiling comprised mostly Hovhaness chamber works — including a new two-piano arrangement by Niccolo Athens of part of the composer's All Men Are Brothers Symphony — but also the world premiere of Dzon (or ‘Ode’) by local composer and Hovhaness admirer Pasquale Tassone. This work featured Silvie Zakarian on marimba and the Arlington High School Madrigal Singers and Honors Orchestra. 35 years earlier in March 1974, Hovhaness had last visited Arlington High School, his alma mater, to take part in a weeked festival of his music organised by Mr. Tassone, with whom he shared conducting duties.

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