Back to All Events

Armenian Modal Chant Workshop with Aram & Virginia Kerovpyan

  • Silk Road House 1944 University Avenue Berkeley, Ca 94704 United States (map)

"After spending three days in an Armenian singing workshop with Aram and Virginia Kerovpyan, I was surprised to find that it was as much a personal spiritual experience as it was a musical one. The mode of singing with a constant drone and with a clear intention and tone lent itself to clearing my cluttered brain. The Kerovpyans are marvelous people who marry a dedication to practicing the Armenian singing tradition with pure kindness. I recommend studying with them very highly and for many reasons."
- Paige Rogers, Co-Founder, Cutting Ball Theater

This immersive workshop aims to give participants an experience of modal singing from an Armenian perspective.

The workshops are for all persons interested in being initiated to the world of musical modes, whether they are Armenian speakers or not. No musical knowledge is required. The total presence and involvement of the participant allows to work on the self and to live a moment of interior peace, to be "in a mode", in a musical mode.

Topics to be explored include:

1) Proper vocal work which allows the participant to discover a natural voice involving the whole body.

2) Modal chanting work which begins by a simple drone and continues by discovering natural intervals that are not practiced anymore in contemporary urban environments. In this workshop, the participant learns to consider a melody within the framework of a mode, i. e., a sound environment, and not as a succession of notes or motifs.

This workshop proposes a journey into a particular sound environment, called "musical mode". The mode creates a specific auditory sensation resulting in a state of being, an ethos, different from that of Western music today. The rational aspect of the mode which we perceive subjectively comprises a whole range of components, especially the intervals, i.e. the distances between sounds, as well as their interrelationship. There are many sorts of intervals and many ways of combining them. In each case, a different mode can be created when the relationship between the sounds is established by the person who sings or plays. This is called modal music.

Thus the participant is encouraged to discover the diverse interval genres and species and then the modes that they constitute on the basis of those intervals, particularly of natural tetrachords. In this way, the participant learns naturally, by listening and memorizing, the chants in a chosen mode with limited lyrics, without having it as an ultimate objective.


Aram Kerovpyan was born in Istanbul, Turkey. He learned to play the kanoun and studied the Near Eastern music system with Master musician Saadeddin Öktenay. Moving to Paris, he joined the Kotchnak ensemble, performing Armenian folk and troubadour music and in 1985, established the Akn ensemble specializing in Armenian liturgical chant. He is the master-singer of the Armenian cathedral in Paris since 1990. He is active in the world of theater as musician, teacher and composer. He holds a PhD in musicology and publishes about modal theory and history of Armenian liturgical music.

Virginia Pattie Kerovpyan was born in Washington, D.C. and moved to Paris in the 1970's. She has performed and recorded with various early music ensembles, as well as contemporary music Soloist of the Kotchnak and Akn ensembles, she has specialized in Armenian song since 1980. Her interpretation brings to the forefront the essence of this music making its discovery and transmission more accessible.