A three time Emmy award winning composer Denise Gentilini, along with singer, songwriter Lisa Nemzo, has created I Am Alive, a dramatic musical that spans a nearly 75 year love story of her grandparents, celebrating the strength and resilience of the Armenian people.
Denise Gentilini is the granddaughter of Kourken and Malvine Handjian, “My grandfather, Kourken, became an orphan at the age of eight. His father was killed when the Armenian genocide started in central Turkey, in 1915, where he lived with his family. Along with his surviving family, he was sent on what would become the death march of men, women and children across the Syrian desert to concentration camps. But a Turkish man had pity on this little boy. He rescued him and placed him in an orphanage. He never saw his family again. My grandmother Malvine also lived in Turkey. Her father was poisoned in the genocide and because she had too many siblings for her mother to handle, she was given away to another family to be raised by them. As surviving Armenians were deported from Turkey, both Kourken and Malvine wound up in a refugee camp in Greece where they found each other. When she was 14 and he was 19 they married, and spent nearly 75 years together,” Denise Gentilini said, speaking to Fox 31 Denver.
Gentilini says while she’s known her history for decades, she chose this year to share what her family went through. “In April it will be the 100th commemoration of the Armenian Genocide, and I wanted to tell the story in a different way. So along with internationally celebrated singer songwriter Lisa Nemzo, we created I Am Alive, a dramatic musical that spans a nearly 75 year love story of my grandparents, celebrating the strength and resilience of the Armenian people. There have been plays and movies and marches, but I’ve never heard a musical. I believe music is a universal language, so even those who don’t know about this time in history might be interested because the music makes it accessible.”
Gentilini, an Emmy award winning composer, says I Am Alive, directed by Christy Montour-Larson, is a continuation of the work she’s been doing in music for years. “As part of the “We Are Voices” project I’ve composed music for Children’s Hospital on Autism, for the Iliff School of Theology for their Courage Award for Judy Shephard and for genocide awareness. I grew up with my grandparents nearby and always knew what they lived through and handed down to us was amazing. It made me want to be an activist and do something: to be the voice for the voiceless.”