YORK Musical Society will give a dramatic performance of Sir Karl Jenkins’s powerful work The Armed Man: A Mass For Peace at York Minster on November 19 with full orchestra and soloists.
YMS last performed this contemporary composition to a capacity audience in 2015, and its sentiment of “Better is peace than always war” is resonant anew in 2022.
To mark the transition to the new millennium in 2000, the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds commissioned Jenkins to compose a work that looks forward with hope to a peaceful future after “the most war-torn and destructive century in human history”. However, the world is once again witness to much conflict, none more so than the present war in Ukraine.
Jenkins worked closely with Guy Wilson, Master of the Armouries at the time, to select the texts to be set to music in The Armed Man. Extracts of sacred texts from different world religions, including The Bible, the Mahabharata and the Islamic call to prayer, were combined with four parts of the Christian Latin Mass: Kyrie, Sanctus, Agnus Dei and Benedictus.
Words are also drawn from several secular sources, such as texts by Dryden, Tennyson, Rudyard Kipling and Japanese poet Toge Sankichi. Jenkins also combines a variety of musical styles to create what was to become a hugely successful and widely performed work.
To complement Jenkins’s Mass For Peace, YMS will perform Joseph Haydn’s Mass In Time Of War – Missa In Tempore Belli, also known as Paukenmesse (Kettle Drum Mass in German), due to its kettle drum solo.
Haydn composed this work in 1796 during turbulent times, when his homeland of Austria was threatened with invasion by Napoleon Bonaparte. Nevertheless, this Mass, commissioned for Princess Maria Josepha of the Estaházy family, is often joyful and lyrical in tone.
The soloists will be soprano Ella Taylor, mezzo-soprano Chloe Latchmore, tenor Greg Tassell and baritone Thomas Humphreys. Ella is a former BBC Chorister of the Year with a passion for performing contemporary music; Yorkshire-born Chloe sang as a soloist with YMS for Bach’s St John Passion at York Minster in 2019; Greg sang the role of the roasting swan in Orff’s Carmina Burana for YMS at York Barbican in 2011; Thomas sings regularly with premier British choirs and orchestras and widely in opera too.
The Muezzin, who proclaims the Islamic call to prayer, will be Ustadh Mohamad Douba, an active member of York Mosque and Islamic Centre. He has been involved in York Welcomes Refugees, the association that gives sanctuary to those fleeing war and conflict.
York Musical Society’s musical director, David Pipe, says: “We’ve enjoyed exploring these contrasting works over the last two months. Karl Jenkins’s The Armed Man has become a modern classic, marrying a huge range of texts with an equally extensive range of musical styles.
“Haydn’s Missa In Tempore Belli, despite its military overtones, has an undeniable sense of optimism, sending the listener out on a wave of jubilant trumpet and drum fanfares.”
Tickets for this 7.30pm concert are on sale at the York Theatre Royal box office, on 01904 623568, at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk and will be available on the door too. Prices: £25, £20, £12; students/under 18s,£6; children under 13, accompanied by a paying adult, free admission.