This Week in Armenian History

Death of Mihran Toumajan (October 28, 1973)

Mihran Toumajan, one of the five disciples of Gomidas Vartabed, continued the work of his master for about forty years in the United States.  

He was born on October 21, 1890, in the town of Gurin (province of Sepastia). He moved to Sepastia with his family in 1895 and pursued there his studies. Then, after moving to Constantinople in 1909, he entered the Law School of the University of Constantinople and graduated in 1913. Between 1910 and 1915 he sung in the famous “Kousan” choir organized by Gomidas and became part of his circle of five disciples, following his private course, which was devoted to prepare Armenian music workers. The other four students were Vartan Sarxian, Parsegh Ganatchian, Vagharshag Srvantzdiantz, and Haig Semerjian.  

After they were deprived of their famous teacher and overcoming the catastrophes of war and genocide, the Gomidas disciples met again in the armistice period (1918-1922). They undertook enthusiastically the work of promoting Armenian music, particularly the works of Gomidas Vartabed. They organized choirs in Constantinople, Adana, and Smyrna, gave concerts, and published songbooks, and with the profit of those activities they continued their musical education in Paris. Toumajan studied in the French capital from 1920 to 1922.  

In 1923, the five disciples were scattered in different countries. Toumajan settled in the United States and was very active in the Armenian American community as the founder of the “Hay Yerk” choral society. He became a choir director and presented the works of Gomidas Vartabed and his condisciple Parsegh Ganatchian. Like the former, Toumajan also collected and transcribed folk music from Western Armenian survivors, and recorded different folkloric materials (folk poetry, sayings, proverbs, prayers, etcetera). He compiled a rich collection of material with great scholarly and artistic value. 

In 1966 he was invited to Yerevan, where he went to work at the Institute of Art of the Academy of Sciences and prepare his valuable collection for publication. The work went very slowly due to Toumajan’s declining health. However, the first volume of Word and Speech of the Homeland was published in 1972. The next two volumes were published posthumously in 1983 and 1986. Mihran Toumajan passed away on October 28, 1973, in Yerevan.