Isabel Bayrakdarian’s richly textured voice has been heard in opera, on movie soundtracks, and in recordings featuring Latin American songs. On her new album, Armenian Songs for Children, the soprano — and UCSB associate professor of voice — does much more than demonstrate her musical versatility. With 29 tracks, she takes listeners on a pilgrimage that covers the musical heritage and lived experiences of the Armenian people, including the collective trauma of the 1915-17 genocide. The selected pieces come from various origins (even from historic villages long abandoned) and draw from different themes which Bayrakdarian skillfully evokes. In “The Little Wooden Horse” by Gomidas Vartabed, Bayrakdarian shapes her voice to the sprightly onomatopoeia of a child riding a toy horse, and in the “Cradle Song Lullaby from Ani” (unknown traditional), her mellow phrasing provides the gentle force that rocks the child’s cradle. Accompanists Ellie Choate on harp, Ruben Harutyunyan on duduk, and Ray Furuta on flute all provide expressive and compelling sounds that both supplement Bayrakdarian and stand on their own.
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