The Armed Man: Mass for Peace

Few could have anticipated the profound impact the Dean Close Foundation’s rendition of Sir Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man: Mass for Peace could have had on both audience and musicians in Tewkesbury Abbey on the evening of Friday 9 November.  This astonishing piece, commissioned by the Royal Armouries in the year 2000 to mark the arrival of the new millennium in the hope that this century would be less bloody than the last, comprises a compilation of short pieces sung in Greek, Latin, French and English with the additional dynamic of a Muslim Call to Prayer, on this occasion provided by a local Imam.

The music of The Armed Man ranges from dark and haunting to crashing drums and clashing cymbals, to the steady beat of the snare drum emulating marching soldiers, to the tolling bells through eerie silence to rejoicing that war is over.  The audience were taken on this rollercoaster journey, their nerves jagged, their sensibilities touched by the amazing sound reverberating around them.  There was stunned silence as the final hymn, sung unaccompanied, drew to a close, a packed nave overwhelmed with emotion not only from the challenging score but also by the powerful and uplifting performance by all involved.

This was one of many events Dean Close organised over the course of 2018 to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the end of WW1.  Learned in just over seven weeks, the choirs of Dean Close Choral Society, Senior School Chapel Choir, Prep School Chamber Choir, Dean Close St John’s Chamber Choir and Tewkesbury Abbey Schola Cantorum all came together with the Prep School Senior Strings, the Regency Sinfonia and organists James Lancelot and Jack Stone, amassing a group of over 150 musicians with an age range of 10 – 80yrs.  The joining of these groups to sing music from so many different countries symbolised the collective, human desire for peace and was an emotional tribute to the courage and sacrifice of those who have died in conflicts around the world.  It was epic.