"The Armed Man must be feared;
Everywhere it has been decreed
That everyman should arm himself
With an Iron coat of mail" Anon
"The Armed Man - A Mass For Peace" is the result of a special millennial commission from the Royal Armouries and the latest in a six century old tradition of "Armed Man" masses that take the fifteenth century French song "L'Homme Arm " as their starting point.
According to 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."
Large scale 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. As Karl 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" .
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 Mah bhar ta contribute to a compelling account of the descent into and terrible consequences of war.
Karl was very moved and much inspired by Guy Wilson's selection of texts and in his music for "The Armed Man" has drawn on a similarly diverse array of cultural and historical sources. It's difficult to think of another composer who could successfully place a muezzin's call to prayer within a Mass setting and follow it with a Kyrie that quotes both Palestrina and Brazilian drum rhythms. That Karl does so with such ease and to such powerful effect is a tribute to his remarkable skill and musical sensitivity.
The CD features Karl Jenkins conducting The London Philharmonic Orchestra and The National Youth Choir of Great Britain alongside soloists Tristan Hambleton (Boy Treble), Mohammed Gad (Muezzin) and Young Musician Of The Year, Guy Johnston (Cello).
"The Armed Man - A Mass For Peace" received its world premi re 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).
"Ring out the thousand wars of old
Ring in the thousand years of peace"
Alfred Lord Tennyson