Music by Makar Yekmalian and the Komitas Chamber Choir of Armenia

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Two Halves of the Badarak

In all of the ancient churches, the Divine Liturgy consists of two large blocks: the Synaxis (bashdon jashou), and the Eucharist (ganon srpo badaraki).  In the Armenian badarak these two halves are preceded by a preparatory introduction, and followed by a brief conclusion--both late additions to the ancient two-part structure.  (The two-part structure is reflected in the division between discs One and Two on this recording.)

Disc 1: Synaxis: Liturgy of the Word (see notes)

The Synaxis, which means "assembly," or "gathering together," is often called the "Liturgy of the Word" because this part of the Divine Liturgy centers on the reading of passages from the Bible, especially the Holy Gospel.  The Armenian Church fathers always emphasize that in the reading of the Gospel, Jesus Christ Himself is revealed.  Around the turn of the eighth century, the Armenian theologian Stepanos of Siunik (d. 735) wrote: "It is not a delegate who pronounces the Gospel, or even an angel, but the Lord of heaven and earth Himself, saying, 'I came from the Father and have come into the world' [Jn 16:28]."  Christ is revealed in the Gospel reading and this corresponds to His revelation by His Body and Blood in Holy Communion.

The Synaxis has its roots in the ancient Jewish synagogue service.  The earliest Christians were Jewish converts, and at least until the early second century they continued the liturgical traditions of their forefathers--reinterpreting them, however, in the spirit of the new Christian faith.  St. Justin the Martyr (d. 165) describes a Christian synaxis of scriptural readings, sermon, common prayers and the kiss of peace, followed by the Eucharist--an outline similar to ours today.

In Armenia, Stepanos of Siunik gives the earliest and most complete account of the Synaxis.  He describes a ceremony at the third hour (9:00 a.m.), on the "great day of the resurrection of the Lord" (Sunday).  That service begins with a procession into the church to the altar, a procession with the gospel book around the altar while singing "Holy God" (Sourp Asdvadz), a litany, scripture readings, alleluia, the gospel reading, recitation of the Creed, and a closing litany and prayer.  This ancient outline corresponds to our Synaxis, except for some minor additions made by the twelfth century.

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8.1 MB

1.6 MB

Preparation (7:04 min.)

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Disc 2: The Liturgy of the Eucharist: Giving Thanks (see notes)

The second block of the badarak is called the "Eucharist," a Greek word meaning "thanksgiving."  We give thanks to the Lord because He has saved us and cares for us.  The heart of the Eucharist in all ancient Christian traditions is called the Anaphora or Eucharistic Prayer (khorhrtamadouyts or kohoutyan aghotk).  This long prayer is recited by the priest on behalf of all the people.

Each of the ancient churches has its own repertoire of individual eucharistic prayers which are similar in literary structure and theme, but vary in content.  Most of them are quite ancient and bear the names of great church fathers.  The eucharistic prayer used every Sunday in the Armenian Church throughout the world is attributed to St. Athanasius, the fourth-century Egyptian theologian who greatly inspired Armenian theological thinking.  The Anaphora of St. Athanasius reflects the individuality of the Christian faith as experienced in Armenia.  It brings together all of the themes of the Divine Liturgy: thanksgiving, worship, commemoration, sacrifice, Holy Communion, and the celebration of our salvation.

In the Divine Liturgy, the church takes unleavened bread and wine and offers these to God.  We ask that He sanctify them by His Holy Spirit and change them into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, a means for our communion with Him.  The Armenian Church believes that when we receive Holy Communion, we are not eating mere bread and wine.  By the power of God, we are receiving Christ Himself, as He commanded us, in a manner which, we admit, is beyond our comprehension.

Holy Communion is a sign of the union of each member of the church with the other and with God.  When a piece of bread is broken into small pieces and distributed to the members of a group to eat, it is an act of unification: that piece of bread that was once whole is now shared by the members of the group.  It brings them together.  Sharing a single cup of wine has the same meaning.  When that bread is not just bread, but Christ Himself, and when that cup of wine is not just wine, but Christ's life-blood, then we can see the power of this ritual as a real communion ("co-union") with each other and with the Son of God.  Having done this, we become the Church, the Body of Christ, in the fullest sense.  And this is what Christianity is all about:

The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?  The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?  Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.  (1 Cor 10:16)


7.7 MB

1.5 MB

Anaphora (6:46 min.) 

Notes by Fr. Daniel Findikyan

"I found your rendition of the Badarak to be most impressive and highly inspiring. Refined artistry is evident all through the masterful interpretation of the liturgy. The faithful of the Armenian Church should possess this exceptionally valuable set of the Badarak."

Vahh Berberian
Professor Emeritus
Clarion University of Pennsylvania

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  • Notes to Selected Choral Settings from the Divine Liturgy

    Liturgical chants are listed alphabetically. 

    Der voghormia (Chant of Supplication)

    Disc Two / Track 8 / 00:57

    Der voghormia ["Lord Have Mercy"] is not, strictly speaking, a part of the Divine Liturgy proper.  The text by the eighteenth-century Catholicos Simeon of Yerevan was published in 1772 in his Kirk aghotits vor gochi zposaran hokevor ["Prayer Book, also entitled Spiritual Refreshment"].  Catholicos Simeon was known for his educational reforms, as founder of the Etchmiadzin press and reviver of the Etchmiadzin school.  Der voghormia is sung during the ministration of Communion to the clergy, which takes place behind the closed altar drape and before the faithful receive Holy Communion.  In the Armenian Church, Communion is administered by intinction: steeping the bread in wine, in order to minister the consecrated elements of the Eucharist together.

    Havadamk (The Nicene Creed)

    Disc One / Track 6 / 00:00

    Havadamk ["We Believe"], or the Creed, is a formal statement of the basic tenets of Christian faith.  The doctrine was formulated in a.d. 325 in Nicaea (now Iznik, known for its exquisite tiles made mostly by Armenian artisans) and finalized in 381 in Constantinople during the Ecumenical Councils convened there to address certain heretical issues.  The Armenian representative to the Nicene Council was St. Arisdages Bartev, the son of Catholicos St. Krikor Lousavorich [Gregory the Illuminator], the patron saint of Armenia.  In the Armenian Church, the faithful recite the Creed with their hands joined in front of their chests.  The chant is without melodic interest, so as to focus the reciter's attention on the text.

    Hayr mer (The Lord's Prayer)

    Disc Two / Track 6 / 04:46

    Hayr mer ["Our Father"], also known as Derounagan aghotk ["The Lord's Prayer"], has a central role in Christian devotion.  In the Armenian tradition, all liturgical services begin and end with Hayr mer, introduced with the phrase "Blessed is our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen."  The text of the Lord's Prayer--from St. Matthew's gospel (Mt 6:9‑13)--is divided into the address and seven petitions, the first three asking for the glorification of God, the latter four being requests for the essential physical and spiritual needs of human beings.

    Khorhourt khorin (The Hymn of Vesting)

    Disc One / Track 1 / 01:09

    Khorhourt khorin ["O Mystery Deep"] is a hymn chanted during the vesting of the celebrant, whose entrance into the sanctuary culminates in the words "Takavor yergnavor" ["Heavanly king"] The acrostic text spells the name of the poet-musician Khachadour Daronetsi, who administered the Haghardzin monastery (near Dilijan) at the turn of the thirteenth century.  According to certain sources, Father Khachadour created it on the occasion of an open‑air liturgy organized at the request of Prince Zakaria, who commanded the army that freed Northeastern Armenia from the Seljuks in 1206.  After referring to the Creation, Original Sin, and Christ's salvation of mankind, Khorhourt khorin alludes to various parts of the clerical vestment--the belt, cuffs, stole, and cope--in a metaphorical context.  On special occasions, it is introduced through a highly florid solo melody.

    Kohanamk (Song of Thanksgiving)

    Disc Two / Track 9 / 06:14

    Kohanamk ["We Give Thanks"], a song of thanksgiving, concludes the Holy Eucharist portion of the liturgy, as the celebrant consumes the remainder of the Sacrament.  It acknowledges the faithful's personal relationship with God, established through the Eucharistic celebration.

    Krisdos badarakyal (Hymn of Communion)

    Disc Two / Track 9 / 00:00

    Krisdos badarakyal ["Christ Sacrificed Himself For Us"] is the anthem chanted before the ministration of Holy Communion, a sacrament given to those who have been absolved of sin by confessing.  The ancient practice of the church required Christians to confess their sins either openly before the congregation or, later, privately with a priest.  Private confession is still practiced by the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, but the Armenian Church joins other traditions in practicing group confession.  Some members of the church undertake confession at regular intervals as a discipline, and others as a means of easing a conscience burdened with guilt for some specific offence, whether committed in thought, word or deed; willingly or unwillingly.

    Krisdos i mech mer haydnetsav (Hymn of the Kiss of Peace)

    Disc Two / Track 1 / 08:44

    Krisdos i mech mer haydnetsav ["Christ Has Made Himself Known to Us"], also known as the Hymn of the Kiss of Peace, is chanted while a ceremonial embrace is exchanged by the members of the congregation.  The Kiss of Peace is a ritual gesture emphasizing Christian love and unity.  Originally an actual kiss, it is now a bow, to the left and to the right of the person being greeted, practiced now only in the Armenian Church.  Received from the priest, it is carried by the deacon to each member of the faithful, who salutes his or her immediate neighbor with the following exchange: "Krisdos i mech mer haydnetsav"; "Orhnyal eh haydnoutyounen Krisdosi" ["Christ is revealed among us"; "Blessed be the revelation of Christ"].

    Marmin derounagan (Hymn of the Great Entrance)

    Disc Two / Track 1 / 00:35

    Marmin derounagan ["The Body of the Lord"], or the Hymn of the Great Entrance, marks the beginning of the Holy Eucharist portion of the Divine Liturgy.  The Great Entrance also alludes to Christ's entry into Jerusalem, where the cross became the altar of His sacrifice.  It is sung during a solemn procession in which the eucharistic bread and wine are carried to the altar.  According to Armenian custom, the bread (nshkhar in Armenian), which symbolizes Christ's body, is unleavened and prepared with unbleached wheat flour.  Round and flat, it is embossed with a cruciform design.  The red wine (kini), signifying Christ's blood, is pure and undiluted with water.

    Sourp Asdvadz (The Trisagion)

    Disc One / Track 4 / 00:17

    Sourp Asdvadz ["Holy God"], or the Trisagion ("thrice holy" in Greek), is a glorification of God the Son who became incarnate as Jesus Christ.  When it is sung, the celebrant elevates the Holy Gospel with both arms to symbolize this adoration.  Sourp Asdvadz is chanted during the Synaxis, the portion of the service preceding the Holy Sacrifice, when people not fully initiated into Christian faith (i.e., not baptized) were, in earlier times, still allowed to be present in the sanctuary.  The first reference to Sourp Asdvadz is traced to the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon in 451.  (The modern name for Chalcedon, a suburb of Istanbul, is Kadikoy.)  The version used in the Armenian Church, with the added text, "who was crucified for us," was devised by Peter the Fuller, the Patriarch of Antioch, in the late fifth century.  Sourp Asdvadz is sung with an alternate text on different feast days; the version given here is the one for Eastertide.

    Sourp, sourp (The Anamnesis)

    Disc Two / Track 3 / 00:00

    Sourp, sourp ["Holy, Holy"] analogous to the Latin Sanctus, is sung during the Eucharistic Prayer, providing a climactic counterpoint to the celebrant's silent supplication.  At the conclusion of Sourp, sourp, while facing the altar, the celebrant raises high the offered bread and chalice full of wine and intones aloud "the words of institution" as recorded in St. Matthew's gospel: "Take, eat; this is my body, which is distributed for you and for many, for the expiation and remission of sins." "Drink ye all of this; this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the expiation and remission of sins" (Mt 26:26-28).

    Yeghitsi (Psalm of Blessing)

    Disc Two / Track 10 / 02:46

    Yeghitsi ["Let it be"] is the Psalm of Blessing from the last portion of the Liturgy, as recorded in Psalm 113:2.  The celebrant takes the Gospel in his hands, bows down three times, kisses the altar, and together with the deacons comes down from the bema into the middle of the church to bless the congregation.  The liturgy ends with the Dismissal, as the celebrant sends forth the worshippers, now spiritually renewed and fulfilled.  It is customary for the faithful to receive mas (a soft, thin, baked dough) as they leave church.  This blessed unleavened bread may be consumed by those who did not receive Holy Communion, or may be taken home to loved ones.

  • Makar Yekmalian and the Komitas Chamber Choir of Armenia

    This 2 CD-set of Makar Yekmalian's Badarak was produced by the Diocese. The renowned Komitas Chamber Choir of Armenia performs on the recording, under the direction of Khoren Mekanejian, Director of the Music Ministry for the Diocese.

    It was recorded in September 2002, in Yerevan, Republic of Armenia, at the Union of Composers and Musicologists concert hall.

    Makar Yekmalian's setting of the Divine Liturgy is the one most universally associated with Armenian sacred music, and is sung every Sunday in Armenian sanctuaries throughout the world.  This alone would ensure his place among the most important Armenian composers of the nineteenth century.  The setting itself was a significant and novel development in Armenian Church music, by virtue of Yekmalian's use of homophonic singing (multiple vocal parts) instead of the traditional monophonic chanting (a single melodic line).

    Yekmalian [also rendered "Ekmalyan"] was born in the Armenian city of Vagharshabad (now Etchmiadzin) on February 2, 1856.  At Holy Etchmiadzin's Kevorkian Theological Seminary he studied under Nikoghayos Tashjian, learning the Armenian notational system, recording numerous liturgical chants, and otherwise immersing himself in Armenian music, sacred and secular.  His gifts were acknowledged by Catholicos Kevork IV, who in 1878 arranged for Yekmalian to enter the St. Petersburg Conservatory.  Under the tutelage of Rimsky-Korsakov, Iogansen and Solovyov, Yekmalian mastered the art of composition and became exposed to world's musical masterpieces.  He directed the debut of his vocal-symphonic cantata Der Rose Pilgerhafrt in 1888, the same year he graduated (with honors) from the conservatory--the first Armenian ever to do so.

    While still a student in St. Petersburg, Yekmalian began work on a setting of the Divine Liturgy.  He took as his basis melodies recorded by his teacher Tashjian, comparing these to variants he had heard.  In 1893, the completed setting (in three- and four-voice arrangements) was evaluated by St. Petersburg's Palace Chapel Committee, which included such luminaries as Rimsky-Korsakov and Balakirev; Yekmalian's effort received its unqualified approval.

    It was first sung in a church setting in Tiflis, Georgia (where Yekmalian had held a teaching position since 1891).  The response from clergy and laity was positive, prompting the new Catholicos Mkrdich Khrimian to sanction it for official use.  It was published by the Leipzig firm of Breitkoff and Härtel in 1896.

    In addition to composing the Divine Liturgy, Yekmalian trained many students (Komitas and Armen Tigranian were private pupils for a time), collected folksongs, and wrote songs, choruses, piano pieces and an orchestral overture.  But at the height of his creative powers, Yekmalian was struck by mental illness.  He died in Tiflis on March 19, 1905, leaving many projects and compositions unfinished.

    The Komitas Chamber Choir of Armenia was established as part of the Komitas State Conservatory's Opera Studio.  Founded in 1986 by Hovhannes Mirzoyan, the choir's music director and principal conductor, it participates in operatic productions as well as functioning as an independent group.  The choir has premiered many works by contemporary Armenian, Russian and European composers, including the French composer Pascal Dusapin's oratorio Nibole, debuted in 1995 on the 80th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.  That same year, the choir participated in a production of the opera Promethee XII, by the contemporary Swiss composer Haig Vartan.  The choir made its American debut in October 2001, when it toured five cities as part of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America's observance of the 1700th anniversary of Armenia's conversion to Christianity.  The Komitas Chamber Choir of Armenia records for the Albany (USA) and Melodia (Russia) labels, as well as for Armenian RTV.

    Khoren Mekanejian was born in Aleppo, Syria.  While a student at the Holy Etchmiadzin seminary in Armenia, he studied music theory, polyphony and harmony under the private tutelage of Dr. Robert Atayan, the eminent Armenian musicologist.  He went on to study under Tatoul Altounian at Yerevan's Komitas State Conservatory, receiving advanced degrees in 1965 and 1979.  Concurrent with a distinguished choral conducting career, Mekanejian composed his own setting of the Divine Liturgy, which was approved for liturgical use in 1984 by the 130th Catholicos of All Armenians, His Holiness Vasken I.  Maestro Mekanejian currently serves as director of Music Ministry for the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America in New York City.  He is a recipient of the St. Sahag and St. Mesrob Medal and pontifical encyclical from His Holiness Karekin I, the 131st Catholicos of All Armenians.

    The Komitas Chamber Choir of Armenia

    Hovhannes Mirzoyan, principal conductor and artistic director

    Khoren Mekanejian, guest conductor

    Father Aram Ohanyan

    Deacon Karen Avetisyan

    Deacon Artavazd Zakaryan


    Artsvik Demurchyan, Hrachuhi Khumaryan, Narine Ojakhyan, Anna Shiroyan

    Vache Sharafian, organ


    Artsvik Demurchyan

    Nelli Enokyan

    Kristina Gevorgyan

    Era Hovsepian

    Hrachuhi Khumaryan

    Gayane Khoyetsyan

    Lucine Meliksetyan

    Laura Nalbandyan

    Jenny Nazaryan

    Narine Ojakhyan

    Sofa Sayadyan

    Anna Shiroyan


    Marina Arevyan

    Shushan Darbinyan


    Lilit Edigaryan

    Hermine Egiazaryan

    Susanna Jamkochyan

    Nektar Mirakyan

    Alina Sirunyan


    Ghevond Ejurian

    Serzh Hakobyan

    Gegham Manukyan

    Rafik Melkonyan

    Karen Mirzoyan

    Perch Papazyan

    Sargis Sargsyan

    Sargis Torosyan

    Suren Zurabyan


    Garegin Babayan

    Robert Baveyan

    Boris Hakobyan

    Gor Harutyunyan

    Aram Galstyan

    Arshak Gasparyan

    Vahan Makvetsyan

    Nerses Paronyan