The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace
Noted Poet, Video and Soloists Featured in Final BCC Concert
The Blair Concert Chorale and its Artistic Director Dr. Ryan Beeken, will conclude the BCC’s 2015-2016 season Saturday, April 23, with one of the most significant works of music by a living composer, The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace. Written by Welsh composer Karl Jenkins, The Armed Man is a compelling account of the consequences of war set within extracts from the Christian Mass.
The Armed Man incorporates a variety of musical inspirations including the 14th Century French folksong “L’homme Arme,” a Muslim call to prayers, text from the Mahabharata and settings of poetry by Rudyard Kipling, Alfred Lord Tennyson and Japanese poet Sankichi Toge. Jenkins uses familiar forms like military music, Gregorian Chant, polyphony intricacy and hymn-like simplicity to create a musical pageant that reflects on the passing of the most war-torn and destructive century in human history and, at the close of the piece, looks forward in hope to a more peaceful future “when sorrow, pain and death can be overcome.”
Since Jenkins premiered The Armed Man at London’s Royal Albert Hall in 2000, It has become an international classical music phenomenon with the distinction of being the most-performed piece by a living composer, having been presented over 1,500 times in 30 different countries. Born in 1944, the son of a chapel organist and choirmaster, Jenkins began his career as an oboist with the National Youth Orchestra of Wales before studying music at Cardiff University. For much of his career, he composed music for advertising campaigns and was known as a jazz and jazz/rock musician, co-founding the group Nucleus, which won first prize at the Montreaux Jazz Festival in 1970. His breakthrough came with the crossover project Adiemus, which he conducted around the world and spawned a classical career so significant that last summer, at the age of 71, Jenkins was knighted during the Queen’s birthday honors at Buckingham Palace by Princess Anne “for his services to composing and crossing musical genres.”
The BCC’s performance of The Armed Man, with live orchestral accompaniment, will be enhanced by a special video commissioned by Jenkins several years ago to provide a sobering and emotional visual backdrop to his work. Created by eminent filmmaker and director Hefin Owen, the video incorporates historical, newsreel and documentary footage of wartime and terroristic conflicts over the decades, and has been paired with performances of The Armed Man around the world. Four guest soloists whose educational and professional accomplishments extend worldwide will join the BCC for the concert: soprano Jessica Reynolds, Director of Vocal Music at Windber High School; mezzo-soprano Raquel Winnica-Young, Adjunct Professor of Voice at Indiana University of Pennsylvania; and tenor Oliver Lo and bass Joseph Baunoch, who both are Associate Professors of Voice at IUP.
To open the concert, Dr. Patricia J. Wesley, Associate Professor of English at Penn State Altoona, will give a presentation “Surviving the Liberian Civil War and Living Again: God’s Miracles in Tragedy.” She will speak about her family’s struggle through the war in the 1990s during the 14-year war and the importance of faith in their survival. The author of four books of poetry, Dr. Wesley has won several awards and grants, including the 2011 President Barack Obama Award from the Blair County NAACP, and has been published in many U.S. and international journals and anthologies.
The BCC’s presentation of The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace will begin at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 23, in the Hollidaysburg First United Methodist Church, 801 Allegheny Street. General Admission tickets are $15 for Adults and $8 for Students, available at Thompson’s Pharmacies (Chestnut Avenue and Hollidaysburg) and at the door. Tickets for the concert are also available online at http://bcc-the-armed-man.eventbrite.com
About the Chorale
The Blair Concert Chorale was formed in 1987 by combining the Keystone Chorale and the Altoona Choral Society, which in turn traces its roots back to 1933. In 1995 a tuition-based children’s choir was added to expose, educate, and develop youth between the ages of 8 and 14 to classical music.
The adult chorale today is made up of over 40 singers (all volunteers) from Blair, Bedford, and Cambria counties. The group is under the direction of Dr. Ryan Beeken. The children’s choir consists of 25 young people from the greater Altoona area under the direction of Jen and Scott Pappal.
The season consists of four concerts: a fall concert, a holiday concert in December with the children’s choir, and two concerts in the spring. They perform in venues such as the Mishler Theatre and area churches. In addition to the concerts, they participate in local arts events, perform with other groups and perform at Garvey Manor.