‘Armed Man’ prays for peace in rousing measure
In times of war and unrest, composers throughout history have turned their protests into musical masterpieces. From Monteverdi ("Madrigals of Love and War"), Haydn ("Nelson Mass"), Schoenberg ("A Survivor of Warsaw"), Tippett ("A Child of Our Time"), Vaughan Williams ("Dona nobis pacem") to Britten ("War Requiem") and countless others, the subject of war and the ensuing hope for peace was, and is, a familiar subject to draw upon.
'The Armed Man -- A Mass for Peace'
Honolulu Symphony Chorus pre-Memorial Day performance:
In concert: 6 p.m. Sunday
Place: Kawaiaha'o Church, 957 Punchbowl St.
Call: 524-0815, ext. 257, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
"The Armed Man -- A Mass for Peace," a new work by Welsh composer Karl Jenkins, imparts this same message. It will receive its Hawaii premiere Sunday in a free community concert presented by Kawaiaha'o Church and the Honolulu Symphony Chorus.
"The Armed Man" is a composition that should be heard by everyone, young and old, for its contemporary approach to a subject that is of the deepest concern to us today. With this work, Jenkins transforms the ancient Mass form and renews its potential for audiences of our new age. It has enormous promise to rouse curiosity and provoke thought.
The Armed Man, or "L'homme arme," was a French secular song of the 15th century. It was widely used as the "cantus firmus" of many Mass settings of the Renaissance. Many composers, including Dufay, Palestrina and Josquin, wrote "l'homme arme" Masses and in this work, Jenkins continues this long tradition.
Jenkins intersperses poetry and prose within the ancient Mass text, embracing our multicultural society by drawing upon writings from around the globe. He quotes poetry by Toge Sankicki, who is recognized for his Hiroshima poems, as well as John Dryden and Lord Alfred Tennyson, to name a few. Jenkins' music superbly matches this collage of literary sources.
"The Armed Man" opens and ends with the popular "L'homme arme" tune to a marching rhythm. Many of its movements are presented in a military style with the rousing use of trumpet fanfares and percussion.
In general, the music embraces the past for inspiration, but Jenkins always manages to give the listener a fresh, 21st-century approach. One will hear an Islamic call to prayer, an emulation of the Italian composer Palestrina, as well as Gregorian chant using men's voices. Some of the music is reminiscent of Samuel Barber and Sir William Walton, as well as recent film scores.
Since "The Armed Man" premiered in 2000, it has been enthusiastically received by audiences due to its appeal to varying musical tastes. It is ethnic, classical and ecclesiastical, and is readily heard and understood. At the same time, it is highly charged and able to take the audience on an emotional journey.
Please join us Sunday for this free concert that also features the Punahou Chorale, Azusa Pacific University Men's Chorale, Kawaiaha'o Church Choir & Kawaiolaonapukanileo, Hawai'i Youth Opera Chorus and the Honolulu Community Concert Band. Everyone is welcome to share this one-time-only musical experience as we anticipate Memorial Day together.
Esther Yoo is a director of the Honolulu Symphony Chorus.