CSUN Symphony will join Serj Tankian, additional vocalists, in world premiere of “Invocations”

CSUN Symphony will join Serj Tankian, additional vocalists, in world premiere of “Invocations”

Serj Tankian, a proud Cal State Northridge (CSUN) alumnus, returns to The Soraya for a concert with his alma mater’s own orchestra, the CSUN Symphony. As the lead singer and songwriter for the metal band System Of A Down, Tankian has released five studio albums, winning a GRAMMY Award in 2006 for “B.Y.O.B.” and selling over 40 million albums worldwide. Beyond that, he is a poet, visual artist, film producer, activist, and composer of films.

For his second performance at The Soraya, Tankian premieres “Invocations,” a new operatic piece for ensemble. The composition features several vocalists, including Tankian himself, the CSUN Singers choir, and instrumentalists in addition to the symphony. Tankian said his experience composing for film, orchestral ensembles, and choirs helped to inspire the project.

“I find these pieces from all of the compositions that I’ve ever done —whether they be for film or self-releases or whatever—that they invoke something. They invoke a spirituality in us. They invoke this connection in us that music is meant to do,” Tankian said in a recent interview with Thor Steingraber, Executive and Artistic Director of The Soraya (watch interview below).  

Well known for his multi-octave voice made famous when fronting the metal band System of a Down, Tankian makes sure audiences know that his voice is by no means the focal point of “Invocations.” 

“I like the idea of bringing the richness of multiple voices into this one experience. Voices that sometimes don’t belong together. It’s a Dadaesque kind of thing that I’ve always had,” he said. 

“Even in rock…you don’t hear a tenor and a death metal singer in the same environment, ever, you know? But we are going to.”

Serj Tankian Invocations ImageFrom left to right: Serj Tankian, Azam Ali, Francesca Genco, Brian Thorsett, and Charles Elliott. Photo by Hans Weichhart.

In addition to the CSUN Symphony, nine musicians will join Tankian on the stage:

  • Vocalists - Francesca Genco, Azam Ali, Charles Elliott, Brian Thorsett 
  • Midi Keyboard - Vincent Pedulla
  • Duduk - Jivan Gasparyan Jr.
  • Oud - Andrew Kzirian
  • Kanun - Lilit Khojoyan   

“I feel very privileged because I get to work with one of my favorite tenors, Brian Thorsett, who’s got this incredible voice. I mean, when I heard this guy sing I wanted to learn how to sing opera,” Tankian said. “My friend Azam Ali, who is one of my favorite world voices…she sings in Urdu and Hindi and English. Jivan Gasparyan, Jr, is gonna be playing duduk. He collaborated with us in 2018 at The Soraya, which was very special.”

Collaboration with CSUN Symphony Orchestra and the Northridge Singers

The CSUN Symphony orchestra and Northridge singers, under the direction of Dr. John Roscigno, join Tankian and his fellow vocalists for the premiere of “Invocations.” 

“I’ve played with two dozen orchestras around the world—European orchestras, Russian orchestras, Eastern European orchestras—and a lot of them are really great. Proficient and rehearsed and put on a great show. Each culture—Italian orchestras, they play differently based on their culture.” he said.

“When I played with the CSUN Symphony Orchestra they put them all to shame. Why? Because they rehearsed the (*expletive*) out of the material!”  

Rehearsals for the April world premiere began March 28 at The Soraya.  As ”Invocations” comes together, Tankian said he’s looking forward to sharing the unique concert with an audience, and thinks people will truly leave changed.