A memorial dance extravaganza by the Sayat Nova Dance Ensemble of Greater Boston will highlight the 97th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide April 15 in Merrimack Valley.
The event will take place at 3 p.m. in North Andover High School, sponsored by the Armenian Genocide Commemorative Committee of Merrimack Valley. More than 350 are expected to attend this "musical tribute to the martyrs."
The observance also will honor three remaining survivors in the region: Ojen Fantazian, Thomas Magarian and Nellie Nazarian.
"The Armenian Genocide is an important fabric of world history and cannot be forgotten," said Sossy Jeknavorian, committee chairman. "We owe it to these survivors as well as 1.5 million martyrs who perished under the Ottoman Turkish yoke during the years surrounding World War 1. Recognition and reparations continue to remain steadfast with Armenians throughout the world."
The Sayat Nova ensemble contains more than 80 members including dancers, stage crew and other volunteers. It is into its 26th year under founder and director Apo Ashjian.
Clad with colorful costumes, the group has performed extensively throughout the United States and Canada, making two trips to Armenia, in 1995 and 2006.
"As part of a rich culture, Armenian folk dancing is a reflection of the life and legacy of the Armenian people," said Ashjian. "Our company is a symbol of pride and achievement for the Armenian people and it's our privilege to showcase this heritage in Merrimack Valley. Our mission is to elevate multicultural awareness within all ethnic communities worldwide."
The main speaker will be Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian, a former state representative from Waltham active in promoting genocide awareness throughout the state.
The group will honor members of the Armenian Heritage Park project which is currently finishing a $6 million memorial complex at Boston's Rose Kennedy Greenway by Faneuil Hall.
The program is centered upon the theme, "Our Day to Remember."
A joint memorial service will open the program, conducted by area clergy. Complementing the service will be hymns by a combined liturgical choir from the community under the direction of Paul Ketchoyian, accompanied by Arsen Russian. Children from various Sunday Schools throughout the region took part in an essay contest on genocide. Winners will be announced that afternoon and share in $350 worth of prize money. A reception will follow in the school cafeteria. The public is invited.
Since the committee's inception in 1994, net proceeds totaling more than $50,000 have gone toward assisting worthy charities in Armenia.
The anniversary is being planned by individuals from various churches and organizations, surrounding the catchphrase, "Remembrance, Renewal, Resolve - We Shall Survive."
Communities in Greater Haverhill, Lawrence and Lowell will commemorate the genocide throughout the week of April 22-28 through proclamation signings, meetings and flag-raising ceremonies with their respective city legislators.