Tenor Charles Pinajian joined Ars Musica about 20 years ago when it was led by Music Director Italo Marchini. Rehearsals were held in a school in Teaneck. Charles has an accounting degree from Pace University and enjoyed a career as an accountant and as a businessman. He enjoys spending time with his family: his wife, Grace; their son, Paul; and their daughter Lynn Beylerian; her husband, Arthur; and their children, Aline and Christine.
In addition to his involvement with Ars Musica, he is very active in his church, St. Leon’s Armenian Church in Fair Lawn, where he often graciously arranges rehearsal space gratis for the Chorale. He is the Deacon in Charge. He defines the role of deacon as akin to that of a Master of Ceremonies: “You invite the people to sing, to pray, and to pay attention.” “The religious service is a 2-hour religious opera.” The music has a Middle Eastern sound with a slightly Russian influence, but with less bass, more tenor, and in modern times, is sung in 4-part harmony accompanied by an organ instead of being sung a cappella, as was the Rachmaninoff Vespers, performed November 17, 2012 by Ars Musica Chorale. Two other Chorale members recruited by Charles—Daniella Ashbahian and Seta Bairamian—also belong to St. Leon’s.
Charles came to Ars Musica in one of his quests to continue his lifelong learning experience. Originally, he decided to take voice lessons from Theresa Minnocci to improve his church singing. After Charles had been her pupil for a few years. Ms. Minnocci suggested he’d do well to sing with that group to further improve his voice by singing Italian opera, in which she knew Music Director Italo Marchini was directing Ars Musica Chorale. Hesitant at first, he sang only the opera performances, but decided he could learn even more by becoming a member and singing all the concerts.
“My best ever experience was when we sang for The Three Tenors at Carnegie Hall. about 6 or 7 years ago. Carlo Bergonzi didn’t come back for the second act of Othello. At the dress rehearsal, he wasn’t singing really strongly, so Charles thought he was holding back to conserve his voice for the next day’s performance. Charles explains, “But at the performance, he was doing the same thing. I tried to convince myself that the reason I couldn’t hear him was because I was so far back, with the orchestra in-between us.” As it turned out, “he didn’t return for the second act, and when he was gone, The “Three Tenors” [Luciano Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo, and José Carreras] were gone also.”
Charles’ views: Commenting on his volunteer involvement with Ars Musica, “When I came on the Board, we were fundraising by having garage sales, and I realized we wouldn’t get very far that way.” While on the Board, to put the organization on more professional and financially stable terms, Charles initiated the Endowment Fund, which is an enduring, valuable source of funding for the group. He notes that despite attending concerts for years, his friends have trouble remembering the name of the group. He thinks it’s because the name doesn’t fall trippingly off the tongue and no one understands what it means! His choice for future performance pieces would be more popular, accessible works that are familiar to an audience, which he feels would increase our successes—perhaps Broadway tunes, or even sing-alongs based on the TV audience-participation style of Mitch Miller. In other words, selections that extend the musical preferences of the chorale’s membership to include those of our audience.
When asked what keeps him in the group, he reflected, “It’s very instructive. Most of the people I sing with are more advanced musically, and I’m always learning, which I enjoy very much.” In addition to Italian, which he took “to better understand what I was singing,” Charles continues his learning experiences at Bergen Community College by taking Honors Italian, Honors Contemporary math, and statistics in addition to several other courses.