A Cappella in Armenia: The Harmonies of Ensemble Luis

A Cappella in Armenia: The Harmonies of Ensemble Luis

The South Caucasus country of Armenia was the first state in the world to adopt Christianity as its official religion and the entire landscape of this small, mountainous country is dotted with churches and monasteries made of volcanic stone.

Armenian a capella singers in Khor Virap Photo credit: MIR Corporation

A live a cappella concert in Armenia’s Khor Virap Monastery
Photo credit: Devin Connolly

The Voices and the Venues

The natural beauty of Armenia is varied and breathtaking; snow-covered mountains, dramatic canyons and fertile plains bursting with pomegranates and apricots create an endless reel of memorable landscapes in a small geographical area.  The female singers of Ensemble Luis, an Armenian women’s a cappella ensemble, add to the visual beauty with their transcendent voices.

The Armenian women’s a cappella group, Ensemble Luis, is known to give performances at the Temple of Garni, the nearby Geghard Monastery and the Khor Virap Monastery, with a view of Mount Ararat. All three sites are ideal backdrops for their heavenly voices.

The women of Ensemble Luis always appear in groups of four or five and they present a powerful overview of traditional Armenian folk and spiritual music. Their voices are a reminder of the temple’s early sacred purposes and the current religious significance of the active Geghard and Khor Virap Monasteries, where the ensemble performs in active churches or against the stunning backdrop of Mt. Ararat. “Luis” means light in Armenian, and the voices of these women create a light all their own. They have been singing together for years and the amount of time they have invested in their craft is evident in the quality of their music.

The group’s harmonies echo off the stone walls as they sing Biblical passages alongside songs about love, courtship and marriage as part of their set. The sound they create together is nothing short of beautiful.

However, it has been said that beauty always comes at a price; the “price” to hear Ensemble Luis  at the Temple of Garni is scaling 14 very steep steps in order to appreciate the acoustics of the temple at their very best. Though the music can be heard from the ground level, the transcendent power of these harmonious voices is felt most closely on a higher plane.

Mt. Ararat towers over ancient Khor Virap Monastery in ArmeniaPhoto credit: Peter Guttman

Mt. Ararat towers over ancient Khor Virap Monastery in Armenia
Photo credit: Peter Guttman

Temple of GarniThe Temple of Garni is always surrounded by music.  Sometimes it is made by the wind that blows up from the adjacent “Symphony Canyon” along the basalt blocks that comprise the edifice of the ancient pagan temple, and sometimes the music comes in a more literal form.  Concerts are performed at the Temple of Garni not only by Ensemble Luis, but sometimes by musicians playing traditional Armenian songs on the duduk, a recorder-like instrument made from apricot wood.

Armenia's Temple of Garni stands on a cliff near the Azat River valley Photo credit: Devin Connolly

Armenia’s Temple of Garni stands on a cliff near the Azat River valley
Photo credit: Devin Connolly

 

Geghard MonasteryWhen the ensemble performs at Geghard Monastery, they use the upper church, which was carved entirely out of solid rock and does a marvelous job of carrying their voices. 

Geghard Monastery blends beautifully with the surrounding mountains Photo: Richard Fejfar

Geghard Monastery blends beautifully with the surrounding mountains
Photo: Richard Fejfar

Khor Virap MonasteryEven the Khor Virap Monastery requires an uphill climb, but the musical treat at the top is worth the journey.  These video samples of a Luis Ensemble performance illustrate their special talent:

 

 

 

Travel to Armenia with MIR

MIR has more than 30 years travel experience in Armenia and the South Caucasus, with on-the-ground support and tour managers that clients rave about. MIR’s full service, dedication, commitment to quality, and destination expertise have twice earned us a place on National Geographic Adventure’s list of “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth.”

You can travel to Armenia and experience such indelible moments as an Ensemble Luis performance on MIR’s small group tour, Treasures of the South Caucasus.

You can also travel to Armenia on a custom private journey or one of MIR’s hand-crafted private independent travel itineraries:

Or on a rail journey by private train:

 

Contact MIR today at info@mircorp.com or 1-800-424-7289.

 

(Top photo: Singers in Armenia’s Temple of Garni. Photo credit: Peter Guttman)

PUBLISHED: January 22, 2015

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