Chanitz- Many of our readers do not know Mary Balian. Can you tell us about your background, and your musical background?
Mary- I gave my life to Christ in the 11th grade at Camp Arev and have been attending United Armenian Congregational Church for over twelve years. One of the ways I have been called to serve Christ is through music, which has always been a part of my life. I have been singing and songwriting since I was six years old and have always sung in choirs. In high school, I was part of an award-winning show choir for four years; during college, I was in Awaken a cappella and recorded two CDs with the group. I sing at various churches and am part of the worship team at UACC. In addition, I have performed in several languages -- on television, radio and in concert. I was part of a group of singers who recorded a Christian album in Farsi. I also toured France and Armenia on the New Hope Band Tour and have appeared on “Unshakable Live” and other television shows.
I’m a graduate of UCLA and Cal State Northridge in sociology and psychology. I work as a school counselor and am passionate about helping kids be their very best. I live in Burbank with my husband, Manuel Saghbazarian.
It wasn’t until college that I discovered Christian music. A close friend of mine gave me a CD by Rebecca St. James and that changed the way I viewed music forever. I found a new passion for Christian Contemporary music, and that led me to my desire for recording Armenian Christian Contemporary music.
Chanitz- Why and when did you decide to make an Armenian album rather than an English one?
Mary- On April 24, 2004, I attended an Armenian Christian worship night for the Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide. There was only one Armenian song sung that night, Khatchin Zinvor, which was very moving to me. I was disappointed that there weren’t any more; all of the other songs were familiar praise songs in English. I realized that there weren’t many Armenian Contemporary Christian worship CD’s available. A deep desire to record an Armenian language Christian album formed. That is when I decided to record “BASHDENK”/ (Let’s Worship). I prayed, I sought wise counsel from pastors and close Christian friends regarding what they felt was a need in the Armenian community. In my heart, I felt there was a great need for Armenian Christian music and I needed to reach Armenians.
Chanitz- Can you tell us the details of how you picked and arranged the songs for your bashdenk CD?
Mary- When I decided to record an Armenian CD, I sat down and started brainstorming Armenian songs that were familiar to me and spoke to my heart. I knew I wanted to record a CD that had variety: songs that sounded more “Armenian”: Khatchin Zinvor, Havadkus Chem Moranah; hymns: Eench Medz Es Toon, Pari Eh Eeem Hokvooys; familiar Armenian Christian songs:
Pernees Khoskeruh, Yerpvor Nah Amberov Veratarna; songs that were Contemporary Christian English songs translated into Armenian:
Aghaghegeh Deeroch/Shout to the Lord; songs that I had heard at other churches:
Pari Loor, Voh Eench Hurash; and a few songs that I had written:
Amen Or, Bashdenk, Tsaynus Luse.
The first song I decided to record was Khatchin Zinvor. Whenever I would hear that song,I would become very emotional. I felt that it spoke to me as an Armenian and Christian. That song inspired me to record the Armenian CD and is very dear to me. While the style of the CD changed as we progressed, Khatchin Zinvor was the inspiration to BASHDENK.
Chanitz- Can you tell us about your future plans?
Mary- I would love to continue recording Christian Contemporary Music in Armenian and other languages if possible. I would love to have the opportunity to worship with Armenian Christians in different parts of the world. I had the opportunity of going to Armenia and was very blessed as I worshipped there with other Armenians.
I have a desire to team up with various non-profit organizations and make a difference through music and service. I have the opportunity of leading a fundraiser concert with The Milk Fund in March 2010 and would love the opportunity to work with other organizations.
Chanitz- What would you like to say to the Lebanese youth?
Mary- Seek first the kingdom of God. Never give up on your Christian faith. Cherish who you are as a Christian Armenian. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. You many not know what lies ahead, but if the Lord has called you to follow Him, you must obey Him and follow His will.
I know the Lord called me to record BASHDENK and I could not walk away from it. It took me almost 5 years to complete, yet I knew I had to be faithful and serve Him. While you may be persecuted and feel discouraged at times, know that the Lord will never leave or forsake you. Do not be afraid to be a Christian Armenian.
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