Sunday, June 7, 2009
The Armed Man - A Mass for Peace (Karl Jenkins)
The centerpiece of our concert is Welsh composer Karl Jenkins's The Armed Man. Although he uses the subtitle "A Mass for Peace," this composition is not a mass in the traditional sense. While it contains a Kyrie (Greek text) and three Latin language mass movements (Sanctus, Agnus Dei and Benedictus), it also has a Muslim call to prayer, a 15th-century French folk song that serves as bookends in the first and last movements, biblical Psalm texts, English texts by Rudyard Kipling, Malory, John Dryden and Jonathan Swift, a text by a survivor of the Hiroshima bombing -- plus quotes from the Koran and the Hindu Mahàbharàta. It is basically an anti-war piece, reiterating man's proclivity for war and the devastating impact that armed conflict has on society and the world at large.
Commissioned for Britain's Millennium year observance, it had its world première in April 2000 at London's Royal Albert Hall. For American audiences and performers, there is a poignancy in the fact that the commercial recording was released on September 10, 2001 - the very day before the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City.
The following video links are of a performance conducted by the composer.
The page numbers refer to the page in the complete vocal score.
Timings are in minutes:seconds in instances in which there is a long orchestral introduction.
1. The Armed Man (Page 1)
The piece begins with a representation of marching feet, overlaid later by the shrill tones of a piccolo, emulating a military marching band. It stirs images of war being glorious. The fifteenth century French folk song “L'homme armé” (The Armed Man) appears in both the first and last movements. In the first movement, it is in the key of G-minor. In the last movement, the key alternates between G-minor and G-major.
loh-meh, loh-meh, loh-mahr-may (phonetic approximation)
L'homme, l'homme, l'homme armé,
The man, the man, the armed man,
loh-mahr-may, loh-mahr-may dwah tahw doo-tay, dwah tahw doo-tay
L'homme armé, l'homme armé doit on doubter, doit on doubter.
The armed man, the armed man should be feared, should be feared.
ahw nah fay pahr-too cree-ay
On a fait partout crier,
Everywhere it has been proclaimed
kuh sheh-kuh suh veeay nahr-may duh oh–breh-gahwn duh fair
Que chacun se viegne armer d'un haubregon de fer.
That each man shall arm himself with a coat of iron mail.
2. Muslim Call to Prayer
This call to prayer provides the chilling, sobering crux of this piece -- that religious intolerance sows the seeds for world conflict. Notice the irony that the transliteration of the Arabic text (on page 15) forms a Christian cross shape.
Allah is the greatest.
I testify that there is no god but Allah.
I testify that Muhammad is Allah's messenger.
Allah is the greatest.
There is no god but Allah.
3. Kyrie – vocal entrance at 1:52 (Page 16)
Sung in ancient Greek. This movement manages both to quote Palestrina and incorporate Brazilian drum rhythms into the musical fabric.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
4. Save Me from Bloody Men (Page 28)
Text from Psalm 59
5. Sanctus (Page 30)
Sung in Latin. The is the only instance I know of in which the Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Sabbath...) is set to a march with snare drum.
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus,
Holy, holy, holy.
Daw-mee-noos deh-oos sah-bah-oht.
Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Lord God of Sabbath.
Pleh-nee soont cheh-lee eht teh-rah glaw-ree-ah
Pleni sunt caeli et terra gloria.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Aw-sah-nah een ehk-shehl-seess
Hosanna in excelsis.
Hosanna in the highest.
6. Hymn before action (Page 44)
Note: on pg. 46 (bottom line), "froward" is not a typo. It means "obstinate" or "contrary."
7. Charge! (Page 49)
8. Angry Flames (Page 69)
Solos for soprano, alto, tenor & bass (as marked in score, beginning on page 69; note which measures are "tutti" and which are solos)
9. Torches (Page 73)
10. Agnus Dei (Page 78)
11. Now the Guns Have Stopped
Solo for mezzo-soprano or alto (entire movement)
12. Benedictus (choir enters at 3:50)
13. Better Is Peace