Naregatsi Orchestra

Folk Instruments Orchestra|

Naregatsi Orchestra is a folk instruments ensemble in Yerevan under the artistic direction of Artem Khachatur, merging Armenian folk traditions and heritage  instruments with various music genres, brilliantly adapting modern sounds to ancient instruments. The orchestra envisions to awaken the interest and love of the younger generations for the treasures of Armenian traditional music. Their aim is to revive the cultural heritage with their masterful performances for international audiences and on their album releases and to preserve and develop the national culture.

The roots of the current Naregatsi Orchestra go to August 2008, when Nareg Hartounian, under the auspices of the Naregatsi Art Institute (NAI), in Yerevan, established the Naregatsi Folk Instruments Ensemble and received the support of benefactors and lovers of art. Named after the spiritual heir of Saint Gregory of Narek, the orchestra defines its own character with its spiritual legacy. The ensemble’s first formation originated in the tuition-free tar and kamancha classes at the Naregatsi Art Institute that started in 2005.

The Naregatsi Art Institute is a non-profit art organization, established in 2000 with headquarters in Yerevan and an educational art center in Shoushi. Founded by philanthropist Nareg Hartounian and named after Saint Gregory of Narek, the mission is to preserve and promote Armenian art, culture and spiritual values.

Initially, the Naregatsi Folk Instruments Ensemble consisted of 21 instrumentalists and vocalists, under the artistic direction of Hovik Sahakyan, a famous tar player and Honored National Artist. The first concert of the ensemble took place in 2008 during the opening ceremony of the “Lebanese Culture Week in Armenia”, followed by numerous concerts in Yerevan and other regions of Armenia and in the Republic of Artsakh.

The Ensemble’s first CD was released in 2010 and features Armenian folk music and minstrel songs. The album won the award “Best Album of the Year” at the National Music Awards. It’s accompanied by an illustrated booklet in Armenian, English and French. In 2010 the ensemble had a number of concerts in France and Switzerland. The Ensemble released their second CD “Rebirth” in 2012.

In June 2015, the ensemble was reorganized into its current format and renamed to Naregatsi Orchestra. With the new artistic director Artem Khachatur at the helm, the repertoire has expanded to include a variety of folk ballads, spiritual songs, new arrangements of classical Armenian songs as well as modern popular songs.

Their latest album “New Breath”, released in 2018, features 12 songs, arranged, transcribed and orchestrated by Artem Khachatur. The masterful arrangement displays that overcoming the technical challenges in the adaptation of compositions from non-traditional genres for folk instruments has been a labor of love. The album is accompanied by a beautifully designed album booklet with illustrations in ancient Armenian designs.

Currently, the orchestra consists of 30 professional musicians, playing ancient Armenian instruments with a history of more than 1,000 years: five qamancha players (also kamānche or kamāncha, a bowed string instrument), six duduks (Armenian double woodwind), tav shvi (flute), shvi (piccolo flute), blul (shepherd’s flute), small bambir (viola), large bambir (cello), a contrabass player, two ouds (short neck pear-shaped, fretless string instrument), three tars (long necked lute-type), one santur (a hammered dulcimer- a trapezoidal resonant sound board with strings) and four kanons / quanuns (a large type of zither with a thin trapezoidal soundboard) and three percussionists (dhol, dap, big drum,cymbals, triangle).

The Orchestra has produced numerous music videos so far. One of them has gained international attention among pop and rock fans – a tribute to Serj Tankian and his band System Of A Down: their rendition of the song “Aerials”, arranged for folk instruments and performed by the Naregatsi Orchestra. Serj Tankian praised their work and even visited the Naregatsi Art Institute and attended a special concert by the Naregatsi Orchestra in Armenia in 2016 which was recorded for a BBC documentary. He has been a keen supporter of Armenian cultural projects.

In December 2021, the Naregatsi Orchestra released its own arrangement of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, overcoming a number of technical challenges specific to the folk instruments.

Orchestra members are currently working on the next album, scheduled to be released in 2023. The album will include new arrangements of traditional folk songs as well as Aram Khachaturian’s Violin Concerto.


See All