The Aiken Civic Orchestra will sponsor a special concert of Baroque music Saturday featuring guest artist Grigor Arakelian.

The performance will be at 7:30 p.m. in St. Paul Lutheran Church at 961 Trail Ridge Road. Admission is free, but donations will be accepted.

"Saturday's concert will feature music from the 12th through 18th centuries, highlighting the greatest Baroque composers, performed by these highly distinguished musicians in the area,” said Adam DePriest, the orchestra's founder and conductor. “Aiken Civic Orchestra is proud to host such artistry for a rare, transformative occasion of Baroque music."

Arakelian is recognized internationally as an authority on ancient music and is known among Armenian musicians as a sought-after composer, conductor and Armenian viola performer, according to a news release from the orchestra. He helped create the Armenian viola, crafting it from the Apricot tree, which is significant to Armenian culture.

"It is an instrument with a beautifully resonant sound, which really has a spiritual quality to it," DePriest said. “It is played in a similar fashion to a cello in a seated position.”

The program will feature concertos by Telemann and Vivaldi, originally for solo viola and cello, but performed on Armenian viola by Arakelian.

Another Telemann concerto originally for viola da gamba and recorder will again feature Armenian viola and joined by Parker-Harley on flute. The performance also will feature soprano arias by Bach and Handel, sung by soprano Sho Ane Seaton, and three works of Armenian composers.

After nearly two years, Arakelian has returned to the area for performances of Baroque music with Augusta Virtuosi, a professional ensemble of area musicians founded by DePriest. Augusta Virtuosi perform for high quality concert series as well as other collaborations, according to the new release.

Many of the ensemble's members have worked with DePriest and Aiken Civic Orchestra, including several of the performers for Saturday's concert such as Laura Tomlin, violin; Carl Purdy, viola; and Ken Courtney, harpsichord.

Also performing will be Levon Ambartsumian, Jennifer Parker-Harley and Richard Thomas. Ambartsumian is a violin professor at the University of Georgia. Parker-Harley is a flute professor at the University of South Carolina. Thomas is a cello professor at Presbyterian College.

DePriest will play double bass as part of the basso continuo section that is essential to Baroque performance, according to the release.

"Maestro Arakelian is a musician of the highest caliber, and it is such a special treat to collaborate for quite an exceptional musical experience," DePriest said. "Maestro Arakelian first exposed us to the wonderful Armenian musical culture in June 2018 in a performance with a select string ensemble of ACO." Last year, ACO performed another program of Arakelian's design, expanding to a full orchestra with a chorus included to sing the national hymn of Armenia.”

Want to go?

What: A concert of Baroque music, featuring Augusta Virtuosi and guest artist Grigor Arakelian

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: St. Paul Lutheran Church, 961 Trail Ridge Road

Admission: Free. Donations will be accepted.

​Larry Wood covers education for the Aiken Standard.