Karl Jenkins' - The Armed Man, A Mass for Peace
Karl Jenkins wrote The Armed Man, A Mass for Peace in 2002, in memory of the victims of Kosovo. However, the work transcends that specific time in recent history. Like Brahms, he looks backwards in time and to other cultures for inspiration. Not only does he rely on the structure of the ages-old Catholic Mass to frame his message, but he incorporates Medieval music and texts, Renaissance-style counterpoint, text from ancient India, a poem born of the bombing of Hiroshima, and even the Muslim call to prayer. It's a work that has rhythmic immediacy and vivid dramatic impact.
There are movements in "The Armed Man" that are somewhat repetitive. Yet, if you listen carefully, you realize there is something different in each repetition. Each one is building toward something, or adding something, or doing something different each time. I didn't realize this learning my part alone. It was when all the singers came together that I got that "Ah-ha!" moment. Definitely goosebump time. It's so simple, and yet brilliant at the same time." - Steve Bench, BPC Bass
"The Jenkins is a piece that yanks you all over the range of human emotion - as does war itself. As a singer, I admire the mystery and rhythmic excitement." - Brad Felton, BPC Bass and Board Member
"The Jenkins is an amazing piece! Both the choral parts and orchestral parts are so dramatic. I really like the use of the L'Homme arme' in both the 1st and last movements (kind of like book ends). The destruction of war really comes out powerfully in the text of Torches. The final movement is so joyous, particularly the final chorale using the text from Revelation." - Paul King, BPC Alto
One of the most startling movements is called "Torches". It uses ancient text found in Sanskrit epics detailing the horrors of the Kurukshetra War. The chorus sings the text in a declamatory style, so that every word and gruesome image is clearly audible. In the first rehearsal of this, the chorus was speechless at the end of this movement. Jenkins, however, follows this horror with a prayer asking for forgiveness. The musical line descends as if the entire chorus and orchestra is genuflecting in humble prayer.
“I can’t sing Torches without crying. There is a line, ‘some hugged their sons, others their fathers and mothers, unable to let them go;’ as a mother this drives home for me how those affected by war and unable to do anything to stop those horrors must feel. To be able to express this and a full range of emotions about war and peace is a privilege.” - Jennifer Davies, Soprano and BPC Board Member
"I have never sung anything like Torches, Its eerie harmony and shrieking dissonance perfectly expresses the holocaust described in the Mahabharata. One can feel the catastrophic pain when listening to it, but the dark scene turns beautiful with the serene Agnus Dei that follows." - James Bobak, BPC Bass and Composition Student at UB.
"The Jenkins work didn't appeal to me at first due to its many dissonances and repetitious, almost power-hungry insistence of rhythm. It's theme of war is unsettling on so many levels. As long as I held it at arms' length and thought of it as being about other people, other cities, other nations, it didn't affect me very much at all. But then I decided to let it in, and realized that it's about me...all of us. If we're not part of the solution, we're part of the problem. One of the most poignant moments for me-after the utter shock of "Torches"-- is the contour of the melody in the "Agnus Dei", almost like falling into the arms of the Redeemer. At the end of struggle and horror there is the hope of something better. But we have to choose it." - Melissa Herr, BPC Alto and soloist for the April 11 performance.