Jenkins’ Armed Man provides a test for Philharmonic Choir

One of the country’s most acclaimed classical musicians is having his work performed in Croydon next month by The Croydon Philharmonic Choir.

Sir Karl Jenkins at a performance of The Armed Man at the Royal Festival Hall last month

Sir Karl Jenkins’s The Armed Man will be sung at St John the Evangelist’s in Sylvan Road, SE19, on Saturday, November 4.

The Armed Man, sub-titled “A Mass for Peace”, is an anti-war version of the Catholic Mass, interwoven with other religious texts as well as the 15th century French folk song L’Homme Armé. It was first performed at the Royal Albert Hall in 2000 and was dedicated to the victims of the fighting in Kosovo.

It has a fascinating provenance, since it was commissioned by the Royal Armouries Museum to mark both the Millennium and the museum’s move of its principal collection from London to Leeds. However, the Master of the Royal Armouries, Guy Wilson believed the museum should “encourage an understanding of what war really is, what it means and does to the people involved in it.”

It was Wilson who assembled the texts which Jenkins set to music. The mass has since become widely popular, with a perfect mix of profoundly affecting words and haunting, accessible tunes. The Benedictus is often played on Classic FM.

Sir Karl – he was knighted in 2015 – was born in the Gower, Wales, in 1944. He was a jazz and prog-rock performer before turning to classical music. His compositions now regularly top the classic music charts and he is reckoned to be the most frequently performed living classic composer. His pieces are written with amateur choirs in mind, challenging them but without making extreme technical demands.

Sir Karl’s concerts, when he takes the conductor’s baton himself, are invariably sell-outs – most recently when he conducted The Armed Man and others of his works at the Royal Festival Hall in September.

The Croydon Philharmonic Concert’s Concert for Peace will open with another anti-war composition, Dona Nobis Pacem, written by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

This too combines elements of the Latin mass with other texts as well as poems by Walt Whitman. It was written in 1936 by Vaughan Williams, an ambulance driver in the First World War, to lament past wars and warn against another one.

The solo parts in the two works will be taken by two eminent singers, soprano Robyn Allegra Parton and baritone Edmund Saddington. The orchestra is the New London Sinfonia and conductor is CPC music director David Gibson.

The concert starts at 7.30pm and tickets cost just £12. Tickets can be bought on the door or via Entry for under-16s is £6 and refreshments will be on sale.

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