Karl Jenkins (1944-  ):
The Armed Man: a Mass for Peace

This work was commissioned by the Royal Armouries Museum to celebrate the Millennium and takes its name from a fifteenth century French song, the tune of which became the basis of a series of military masses written in the ensuing hundred years.  The work starts with this song and contains some of the words of the Catholic mass interspersed with texts relating to war and peace by a variety of writers and poets, including some from other religious traditions. 

There are 13 movements in all, charting a progression from a call to arms and prayers before battle; through the battle itself, the human destruction (evoked by the words of a Hiroshima victim), the eerie silence afterwards and the guilt of the survivors; and finally arriving at the conclusion that peace is a better way than war and resolving that the new millennium will be more successful than the old one in this respect.  Along the way we experience a huge variety of musical styles both historically and geographically, ranging from the timeless traditional call of the muezzin, through plainsong and sixteenth century polyphony, to twentieth century film music and Brazilian drum beats. 

The Armed Man was premièred in the Royal Albert Hall, London, in April 2000 and has gained in popularity ever since, being voted 15th in Classic FM’s hall of fame in 2010.  By coincidence, the official CD was issued the day before the atrocities in New York on 11 September 2001, and because of its subject matter the work has acquired a resonance with the survivors of terrorist violence.

Peter Harbord,  North Yorkshire Chorus

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