I have just been informed, by Prof. Mark Gavoor, of the passing of a great man, the church musician and musicologist, Krikor Pidedjian (1935-2019) - the doyen of Armenian musicologists.
I had of course had occasion to gain detailed familiarity with his work from his various published volumes, but was especially lucky in that, thanks to the kindness of a mutual friend, the theologian Prof. Abraham Terian, a meeting did take place, during my research sojourn in New York (during which I was generously hosted at the St. Nersess Seminary in New Rochelle, in early 2013, by the Very Rev. (and now Bishop) Daniel Findikyan. I had requested a meeting with Krikor, since he was uniquely placed to advise me on my own research (centred, at the time, on the manner in which the mediaeval neumes had been employed by the nineteenth-century Constantinopolitan musicologist, Elia Tntesean). Having worked largely in isolation, I was acutely aware of the danger of having fallen into various logical traps through wishful thinking (as had happened to so many others in the area in the past) and reached incorrect conclusions, or (on the contrary) that my findings might constitute a reinvention of the wheel and a mere statement of the obvious. Krikor was thus driven to New Rochelle by his wife, Digin Berjuhi, for a half-hour visit at the Seminary - but we ended up having a discussion non-stop for seven hours (with Krikor sacrificing his own valuable research time, and having only recently recovered from a heart attack). I remain most grateful for this privilege - which was nothing short of a stroke of good fortune, and Krikor's counsel and encouragement have stood me in good stead ever since.
More recently, I was fortunate to receive his advice in the course of several long transatlantic telephone calls, which he would initiate upon reading one or other of my articles (which I would email him from time to time), and which would end only when one or other of our mobile telephone batteries would give out! There were also exceedingly generous endorsements of my modest endeavours by Krikor, both in his monumental volume on Kara-Murza (which included his most recent and truly spectacular discovery of a version of the Divine Liturgy by Kara-Murza that had been assumed lost for over a century, until Krikor succeeded in unearthing some forgotten papers in a Yerevan archive, immediately recognising their significance when many others before him had failed to do so), and on the pages of the Constantinopolitan daily, Zamanak.
Krikor was a very devout man; indeed, he had been ordained as a celibate priest in his youth, and though he later opted for life as a family man, he remained closely attached to the Church. It may also be less well known that he was distantly related to Sebuh Efendi - the legendary mid-nineteenth-century blind Constantinopolitan musician who was known to be called upon to entertain the music-loving Ottoman Sultan Abdül Aziz (in office 1861-1876), by playing him the Maundy Thursday sacred ode "Sirt im sasani" on his violin (and one of whose compositions has recently regained life as a delightful jazzy vocal piece, wittily parodying coffee cup reading on the shores of the Bosphorus that has gone "viral" on you-tube!).
Krikor's piety was also manifested through his desire to help others in every way possible, and, given his modesty, it is perhaps not well known that, though himself advanced in years and in poor health, he spared no efforts to raise funds to assist, in a discreet manner, elderly musicians in the Caucasus who had fallen on hard times.
Krikor also had a most amiable and quirky sense of humour. When I asked him about an incident from the 1950s (described by my late teacher, Abp. Zareh Aznaworean of blessed memory - himself a pupil of Krikor's!), in which, during the Divine Liturgy on the day of the Vardanian Saints, Catholicos Zareh of blessed memory publicly reprimanded the chief chanter, who was apparently unable convincingly to reproduce the melody of the melismatic Pueri hymn Ariac'ealk', proceeding to sing it from memory himself - Krikor immediately and proudly declared, to our astonishment: "Ե՛ս էի անիկա... That was me!". Apparently that day Krikor had expected his colleague Kevork Kandaharian to bring the score, and vice-versa, so in the end someone had to attempt to cobble together the melody without the score, and Krikor manfully tried to do so, irking the Catholicos, who loudly grumbled before taking over...
It was a great blessing indeed to have known Krikor. He was the last surviving giant from the first generation of graduates from the Antelias seminary, established by the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia in exile, and his passing is tantamount to the end of an era. He will be missed by many, and his absence will be felt for a very long time to come. May God illuminate his soul!
Krikor Pidedjian and Haig Utidjian