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  • Joanna

The Armed Man (A Mass for Peace)

I have this great pleasure to be a member of Northampton Bach Choir.

Last Sunday (6th February) we performed in Royal and Derngate Theatre in Northampton. We sang a piece by Sir Karl Jenkins 'The Armed Man' (A Mass for Peace).

'The Armed Man' was dedicated to victims of the Kosovo crisis. It begins with a representation of marching feet, overlaid later by music impersonating the flutes of a military band with the 15th-century French words of "The Armed Man". After the reflective pause of the Call to Prayer and the Kyrie, "Save Us From Bloody Men" appeals for God's help against our enemies in words from the Book of Psalms (Psalm 59).

The Sanctus has a military, menacing air, followed by Kipling's "Hymn Before Action". "Charge!" draws on words from John Dryden's "A song for St. Cecilia's day" (1687) and Jonathan Swift citing Horace (Odes 3,2,13), beginning with martial trumpets and song, but ending in the agonised screams of the dying. This is followed by the eerie silence of the battlefield after action, broken by a lone trumpet playing the Last Post. "Angry Flames" describes the appalling scenes after the bombing of Hiroshima, and "Torches" parallels this with an excerpt from the Mahabharata (book 1, chapter 228), describing the terror and suffering of animals dying in the burning of the Khandava Forest. Agnus Dei is followed by "Now the Guns have Stopped”.

After the Benedictus, "Better is Peace" ends the mass on a note of hope, drawing on the hard-won understanding of Lancelot and Guinevere that peace is better than war, on Tennyson's poem "Ring Out, Wild Bells" and on the text from Revelation 21:4: "God shall wipe away all tears".

The concert was very emotional for us, singers, but also for the audience, as there were tears rolling down people's cheeks.

Music awakes emotions, music express what cannot be expressed by words. Music is powerful.

MHarmony Music Therapy Services Northampton.

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