Most of my work over the past months revolved around preparing for a school performance of Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace at St Alfege Church in Greenwich. To perform the piano part with a student orchestra and choir of over 130 musicians in such a beautiful space was truly a remarkable experience.
The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace was commissioned by the Royal Armouries to mark the transition from one millennium to another. It reflects on the passing of ‘the most war-torn and destructive century in human history’ and looks forward in hope to a more peaceful future. The Armed Man is dedicated to the victims of the Kosovo conflict, whose tragedy was unfolding as it was being composed. It was first performed in 2000 by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the National Youth Choir of Great Britain, conducted by Jenkins himself.
The texts were chosen jointly by the composer and the then Master of the Royal Armouries, Guy Wilson. A framework for the work is provided by the traditional Catholic Mass and includes settings of the Kyrie, Sanctus, Agnus Deiand Benedictus, some of which have become popular self-standing pieces to be heard, for instance, on ClassicFM. But what makes the work distinctive are the lyrics drawn from many parts of the world and from diverse religions and cultures. The music too is cosmopolitan in its inspiration.
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