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Composer commemorates centenary of Armenian Genocide

Armenians being deported from Turkey ca. 1915.
flickr user Narek

Dan Yessian is one of the most prolific and respected composers of commercial music.

His Farmington Hills-based company has clients all over the world.

You’ve heard his tunes helping to sell everything from Little Caesars Pizza to Chevy, Cadillac, Chrysler, United Airlines, Lexus, Ikea, and so many more brands.

But it’s safe to say his latest musical undertaking is especially close to his heart.

Yessian is about to hold the world premiere of An Armenian Trilogy, commemorating the genocide of 1.5 million Armenian men, women, and children, killed by the Turkish Ottoman Empire 100 years ago.

Yessian is of Armenian descent, and tells us this project is near and dear to him.

”My grandfather and grandmother, when I forced them into it, were telling me stories of what had happened back then in parts of Turkey,” he says.

His grandfather told him of watching his first wife murdered in front of his eyes, of Armenians being forced to march through the desert until they dropped dead, of children being stabbed and thrown into the river by the thousands, all at the hands of what was then the Turkish Ottoman Empire.

“There’s a series of reasons, but all of this because the Turks regarded the Armenians as infidels,” he says. “There was a desire to rid the population of these infidels, or Armenians, as Hitler did with the Jews.”

An Armenian Trilogy includes three movements for piano and violin. Through the piece, Yessian tells the tale of a peace-loving people who ultimately suffer tremendous tragedy, holding on to any bit of hope left.

Yessian tells us that while he feels this piece brought him closer to his ancestors, he also tries to think of it in a more worldly and modern sense.

“Just because I happen to be Armenian doesn’t mean it stops there. This thing is going on today. We’ve got problems all over the world,” he says. “I mean come on, when are we going to learn? And do we ever?”

“It’s unbelievable that this is what humanity does to humanity, it’s a crazy thing.”

Dan Yessian’s An Armenian Trilogy is having its world premiere at the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts on Oct. 29 at 7:30 p.m. It’s part of a multidisciplinary project called Hope Dies Last, marking the centenary of the Armenian Genocide with music, photography, film, and 3-D mapping. Tickets and more information can be found at macombcenter.com.

You can listen to excerpts from the piece and hear Yessian tell us more about each movement in the conversation above.

–Ryan Grimes, Stateside

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