State Fairgrounds 1935 – Armenian Festival

On Sunday, July 7, 1935, the Armenian Democratic League held their 15th annual convention in Detroit at the Michigan State Fairgrounds. The convention was a festival that featured opera and choral singers along with traditional Armenian dance music and musicians.  The highlights were captured on 16mm by Jack Stephens but the film was then provided by the late Souren Aprahamian in order for this short documentary to be made.


Armenian musicians playing at the Michigan State Fairgrounds in 1935.

A screen freeze-frame from the 16mm film which features Armenian musicians playing at the Michigan State Fairgrounds in 1935.

Recently, I was given a DVD copy of a video that was produced several years ago (that included the 1935 film footage) with a narration provided by Karl Couyoumjian Sr. (I want to thank Diane Ekizian for bringing this film to my attention).

This 10 minute video was not commercially released on television and was produced several years ago in Detroit by the St. John’s Armenian Church community. The film was pressumed to have been duplicated for either sale or given away free of charge.

To me, this video is significant as it shows Armenian musicians playing clarinet, oud, davul and violin…from 1935! I am unaware of who these musicians are and would greatly like to find out. I would also like to use portions of the film footage in my project if at all possible.  In looking at the pictures of the clarinet players, I am unfamiliar with who the musician is – which makes this mystery that much more appealing to me.

For any of you reading this from the Detroit area, I would like to hear what you might know about the origination of this film. In order to use this film, I would need to obtain permission from the owner of the original footage or make a determination that these “home movies” are in the public domain (per copyright law that anything prior to 1978 may be in the public domain). I am not a lawyer, nor play one on television – want to do the right thing and so any information would be helpful.

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5 Responses to State Fairgrounds 1935 – Armenian Festival

  1. Mihran Toumajan says:

    Great stuff as always. The video that was given to you, to which you refer in this blog most, mentions the Armenian Democratic League (ADL). For the sake of accuracy, ADL stands for Armenian Democratic Liberal (Party). If you need documentation, please let me know.

  2. aratopouzian says:

    ADDENDUM: the musicians at this festival could have been from out of town and not Detroiters. This festival was a convention therefore many out of towns were here for the festival.

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