Ethnomusicologist and Georgian chant scholar, John currently holds a post-doctoral teaching fellowship at Yale Institute of Sacred Music. His PhD at Princeton University, "The Transmission and Transcription of Georgian Liturgical Music," encompassed a comprehensive investigation of the available sources for the medieval liturgical chant of the Georgian Orthodox Church. Co-founder of the Monastery tour in 2006, John had already been studying music and language in Georgian since 2003, including on a Fulbright research grant in 2004, and dissertation research in 2009-2011. In 2005, he organized a US-based tour for the world-renowned Anchiskhati Church Choir, and promoted the energetic Zedashe Ensemble to the States in 2007. John brings his developed organizational skills, compassionate leadership style, and passion for music, architecture, and history to the tour team.
Occasionally, we are joined by the lovely Ekaterine Diasamidze, a passionate music promoter for Georgia's only classical music station, Radio Muza, and a Ph.D. student in Anthropology at the Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University. Eka holds a BA from the Tbilisi Conservatory in 2003 and a Masters in Musicology from the St. Petersburg Conservatory in 2005. She has studied Georgian history, is a church chanter, and brings her deep love and knowledge of the Georgian language and culture to our guide team.
... was born and raised in the highland region of Svaneti, where he grew up speaking both the Svan and Georgian languages and learning local arts such as ornate wood-carving and traditional folk songs. Now a soloist in the Zedashe Ensemble and resident in Sighnaghi, East Georgia, Shergil (pronounced Share-geel) makes a living making fine wood carvings and working as a sommelier in the burgeoning wine-tourism industry. As a performer and teacher of traditional music, he has toured in the USA, Holland, Latvia, and the UK on several occasions, and brings his passion for music and fine sense of humor and poise to the guide team at Georgianchant.org.
... is a dynamic performer and educator of Georgian traditional folk and sacred music. As a soloist in the Sakhioba Ensemble, Soso has performed in the UK, Croatia, Ukraine, Poland, and the US, as well as in concerts throughout Georgia. Soso studied in the Tbilisi Seminary and the Patriarchate College of Chant Studies, and worked as a radio host in Folk Radio Tbilisi. He is accomplished on many instruments including the doli (drum), chiboni (bagpipe), chonguri (lute), and guitar. His energy and enthusiasm, combined with a skill for ordering the most delicious foods, make him an invaluable asset to our guide team.
... is longtime friend and the co-founder of the Monastery Tour starting in 2006. Luarsab (pronounced Loo-ar-saab) is an enthusiastic and passionate ambassador of Georgia's many traditional arts. One of his ventures, Samoseli Pirveli, makes traditional Georgian garments; photos here. He also publishes books on church history including monasticism on Mt. Athos, but his special hobby is collecting and identifying 19th century portrait photographs. Father of five children, and manager of several restaurants in the family business, Luarsab is not always available to lead tours but is still considered one of our intellectual contributors.
Asqanaz (pronounced Ahs-kah-nahz) is a native of Yerevan, Armenia, the youngest of three sons to professor parents. After completing a bachelor’s in economics, Asqanaz has traveled widely. This engagement led to a job with the international organization, Birthright Armenia, where Asqanaz organized the placement and activities of young volunteers from America in villages around Armenia. Asqanaz has also worked with Halo Trust, a British de-mining organization. Asqanaz has a strong bent towards social justice and volunteerism, but also uses his considerable organizational capacity and charisma for sharing his favorite places in Armenia with his friends and guests.
... is originally from Wisconsin, but has since traveled the world and back. As a Ph.D. candidate in Ottoman studies at Princeton University, he has spent extensive time living and studying Turkey, especially in the northwestern regions along the Georgian border, the regional focus of his dissertation research. Alex is a keen linguist, speaking and reading Turkish, Farsi, Russian, and German, and brings extensive knowledge and expertise on the region to GeorgianChant.org tours in Turkey. Alex is also an alum of the Princeton Georgian Choirs and has been known to contribute a sturdy bass to chants sung in the ruins of Georgian monastery cathedrals in Tao-Klarjeti.
... grew up in Mestia, Svaneti, the eldest of five siblings. Maka speaks several languages including Svan, Georgian, English, and Russian, and has traveled extensively throughout Georgia. As a longtime employee of the Red Cross in Georgia, Maka has also traveled widely throughout the world on training and aid missions. Her bright smile and warm collegiality evoke confidence in any community that she inhabits, qualities that she brings to GeorgianChant.org tours as well.
Stefan Williamson Fa
... Stefan Williamson Fa grew up in Gibraltar, at the southern tip of Spain. He is now a doctoral candidate at University College London. His dissertation work concerns researching the role of sound in Azeri Shi’i ritual mourning songs. For this research he lived in Georgia for a year, studied the musical cultures of the Eastern Black Sea region, and more recently has turned his attention to the Azeri émigré community that live in the city of Kars, near the Armenian-Turkish border region. Outside of his formal research interests, he is also a collector of long-necked lutes, cassette tapes, and other things. He plays the saz, a seven-string Turkish lute, and is working on a film about pigeon keeping in Anatolia. Our tour is very fortunate to welcome Stefan to the leadership team, his expertise in eastern Turkey will be invaluable!