Karl Jenkins’ “The Armed Man”


Jenkins’ The Armed Man
Johannesburg City Hall
Wednesday, 26th and Thursday, 27th of September

For the first time in Johannesburg two performances of celebrated composer Karl Jenkins’ acclaimed mass “The Armed Man”. The performances will be conducted by Karl Jenkins himself. Jenkins explains: “As I started composing “The Armed Man” the tragedy of Kosovo unfolded. I was reminded daily of the horror of such conflict and so I dedicate the work to the victims of Kosovo”.

Jenkins is best known to South African audiences as the composer of “Adiemus” which featured prominently former South African, Miriam Stockley.

The latest in a six century-old tradition of “Armed Man” masses arising from the 15th century French song “L’Homme Armé”, the work was commissioned by Guy Wilson, Master of the Royal Armouries. “The theme that ‘the armed man must be feared’ which is the message of the song seemed to me painfully relevant to the 20th century and so the idea was born to commission a modern ‘Armed Man Mass’. What better way both to look back and reflect as we leave behind the most war-torn and destructive century in human history, and to look ahead with hope and commit ourselves to a new and more peaceful millennium”, says Wilson. ‘The Armed Man’s’ relevance to South Africa and Africa is no less poignant.

Large in both scope and scale “The Armed Man” it is a profoundly moving yet very accessible work which uses the most traditional of means to explore an all too contemporary subject. In a manner reminiscent of Britten’s War Requiem, “The Armed Man” interpolates a number of different texts within the usual Mass form. Malory, Dryden, Swift, Tennyson, Kipling, The Koran and the Hindu Mahàbharàta contribute to a compelling account of the descent into and terrible consequences of war.

“The Armed Man – A Mass for Peace” received its world première in April 2000 at London’s Royal Albert Hall. In a rapturous performance, by turns visceral and ethereal, the Mass was “a firebomb of orchestral and human voices” (The Times) that drew “prolonged shouts of approval from the audience” (The Independent).

The soloists to be featured will be announced shortly. Five choirs will participate: the University of Johannesburg Kingsway Choir, Musica Mundo, Collegium Vocale, Palissander, Akustika and will be accompanied by a 70-piece orchestra.

Tickets cost R150 and R125. Booking may be made through Computicket.

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