Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace (Part 2)

The Metropolitan Chorus will be performing "The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace" by Karl Jenkins on March 13th at Mount Olivet United Methodist Church along with another Jenkin's piece "Stabat Mater." Our esteemed accompianist, Terry Sisk, wrote the following blog entry for the Vienna Choral Society this past Fall when he served as their Interim Music Director (We previously blogged about their concert). It contains some great background information plus audio and video links to performances of the piece:

The centerpiece of our October 17 concert is Welsh composer Karl Jenkins's The Armed Man. Although he uses the subtitle "A Mass for Peace," this composition is not a mass in the traditional sense. While it contains a Kyrie (Greek text) and three Latin language mass movements (Sanctus, Agnus Dei and Benedictus), it also has a Muslim call to prayer, a 15th-century French folk song that serves as bookends in the first and last movements, biblical Psalm texts, English texts by Rudyard Kipling, Malory, John Dryden and Jonathan Swift, a text by a survivor of the Hiroshima bombing -- plus quotes from the Koran and the Hindu Mahàbharàta. It is basically an anti-war piece, reiterating man's proclivity for war and the devastating impact that armed conflict has on society and the world at large.

Commissioned for Britain's Millennium year observance, it had its world première in April 2000 at London's Royal Albert Hall. For American audiences and performers, there is a poignancy in the fact that the commercial recording was released on September 10, 2001 - the very day before the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City.

Click on the following link for a directory of audio (only) tracks (scroll down farther for YouTube videos):


The following video links are of a performance conducted by the composer.
The page numbers refer to the page in the complete vocal score.
Timings are in minutes:seconds in instances in which there is a long orchestral introduction.

1. The Armed Man (Page 1)
The piece begins with a representation of marching feet, overlaid later by the shrill tones of a piccolo, emulating a military marching band. It stirs images of war being glorious. The fifteenth century French folk song “L'homme armé” (The Armed Man) appears in both the first and last movements. In the first movement, it is in the key of G-minor. In the last movement, the key alternates between G-minor and G-major.

Loh-meh, loh-meh, loh-mahr-may (phonetic approximation)
L'homme, l'homme, l'homme armé,
The man, the man, the armed man,

loh-mahr-may, loh-mahr-may dwah tahw doo-tay, dwah tahw doo-tay
L'homme armé, l'homme armé doit on doubter, doit on doubter.
The armed man, the armed man should be feared, should be feared.

Ahw nah fay pahr-too cree-ay
On a fait partout crier,
Everywhere it has been proclaimed

kuh sheh-kuh suh veeay nahr-may duh oh–breh-gahwn duh fair
Que chacun se viegne armer d'un haubregon de fer.
That each man shall arm himself with a coat of iron mail.


2. Muslim Call to Prayer
This inclusion provides chilling, sobering evidence of the seeds for world conflict. Notice the irony that the transliteration of the Arabic text (on page 15) forms a Christian cross shape.

Allah is the greatest.
I testify that there is no god but Allah.
I testify that Muhammad is Allah's messenger.
Allah is the greatest.
There is no god but Allah.

Click on this link to hear the Call to Prayer (audio only - no video available):

3. Kyrie – vocal entrance at 1:52 (Page 16)
Sung in ancient Greek. This movement manages both to quote Palestrina and incorporate Brazilian drum rhythms into the musical fabric.
Solo opportunity: soprano, page 17 at letter A

Kee-ree-eh eh-leh-zawn
Kyrie eleison.
Lord, have mercy.

Kree-steh eh-leh-zawn
Christe eleison.
Christ, have mercy.

Kee-ree-eh eh-leh-zawn
Kyrie eleison.

Lord, have mercy.


4. Save Me from Bloody Men (Page 28)

Text from Psalm 59


5. Sanctus (Page 30)
Sung in Latin. The is the only instance I know of in which the Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Sabbath...) is set to a march with snare drum.

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus,
Holy, holy, holy.

Daw-mee-noos deh-oos sah-bah-oht.
Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Lord God of Sabbath.

Pleh-nee soont cheh-lee eht teh-rah glaw-ree-ah
Pleni sunt caeli et terra gloria.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.

Haw-sah-nah een ehk-shehl-seess
Hosanna in excelsis.
Hosanna in the highest.


6. Hymn before action (Page 44)
Note: on pg. 46 (bottom line), "froward" is not a typo. It means "obstinate" or "contrary."


7. Charge! (Page 49)

8. Angry Flames (Page 69)
Solo opportunities for soprano, alto, tenor & bass (as marked in score, beginning on page 69; note which measures are "tutti" and which are solos)

9. Torches (Page 73)
click on this link (audio only):


10. Agnus Dei (Page 78)


11. Now the Guns Have Stopped
Solo opportunity: soprano or alto (entire movement)

12. Benedictus (choir enters at 3:50)


13. Better Is Peace
Note: no solos in this movement; instead, we'll sing every line as a section.
This video (composer conducting) does not include the a cappella section at the end (see second video)

The following video (taped in Slovenia) includes the final a cappella section:

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Evening with Schubert

For its first concert of the 2009-10 season, The Metropolitan Chorus presented two major works of Franz Schubert, his Mass No 2 in G Major and Mass No 6 in E-Flat Major. The chorus' performance was exceptional, as were the organ and string accompaniments and solo sections performed by The Met Singers.

Franz Peter Schubert (1797-1828) was an Austrian composer, writing some 600 lieder (songs), 9 symphonies, liturgical music, operas, and a large body of chamber and solo piano music. He is particularly noted for his original melodic and harmonic writing.

Written in 1815, Mass No 2 in G Major (D167) was the best known of the three "shorter" mass compositions that Schubert composed between his more elaborate first and fifth masses. This second mass, commonly referred to as Schubert's Mass in G, was composed in less than a week (March 2-7), the year after his first mass had been successfully performed in Schubert's home parish.

Written in 1828, Mass No 6 in E-Flat Major (D950) was among Schubert’s most admired creations, hardly what one would expect of an ailing composer in his final year. Yet this great mass for five vocal soloists, choir, and orchestra is a bold and innovative work, inspired in its expansive form and abundant counterpoint by Ludwig van Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis.

The concert was held Saturday October 23 at 8 pm at Vienna Presbyterian Church in Vienna, Virginia.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Concerts for Peace

For its first concert of the 2009-10 season, the Vienna Choral Society presented Dona Nobis Pacem and, in collaboration with The Amadeus Concerts Inc, also presented The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace. Together the two pieces reflect the powerful and compelling accounts of the descent into, and terrible consequences of, war.

In selecting text for Dona Nobis Pacem, Ralph Vaughan Williams turned to the Latin Mass, scripture, and the poetry of Walt Whitman, who had lived through the ferocity and bloodshed of our Civil War. Whitman volunteered in the military hospitals outside Washington, visiting with the injured men and writing letters for them. The experience was profoundly moving for Whitman and found its way into much of his poetry.

Written by Welsh composer Karl Jenkins as a commission for the millennium by the Royal Armouries in England, The Armed Man is dedicated to the victims of the Kosovo crisis, a tragedy which unfolded as Jenkins started composing the piece. The work is a contemporary example of a Mass based on the 15th-century French song L’Homme Armé. The complete work sets sacred and secular texts including Tennyson, Kipling, Malory, Drydon, Swift, The Koran, and Hindu Mahàbharàta within the framework of the Christian Mass in a manner reminiscent of Britten's War Requiem.

The performances of both pieces went exceptionally well, and the success of The Armed Man was a direct result of the generous collaboration between A. Scott Wood, director of the Amadeus Concerts, and Terry Sisk, director of the Vienna Choral Society and accompanist for The Metropolitan Chorus. In presenting The Armed Man, the Vienna Choral Society also partnered with the Saint Francis Episcopal Church Choir, Saint Luke Catholic Church Choir, and Amadeus Community Singers.

The Vienna Choral Society's concert featuring Dona Nobis Pacem and The Armed Man was held on Saturday October 17 at 7:30 pm at Vienna Presbyterian Church in Vienna, Virginia. The Amadeus Concerts' performance of The Armed Man was held on Sunday October 18 at 4 pm at Saint Luke Catholic Church in McLean, Virginia.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Those Were the Days

For its fifth and final concert of the 2008-09 season, The Metropolitan Chorus (TMC) joined the Washington Balalaika Society (WBS) Orchestra for a evening of Russian folk music. The evening marks the orchestra's 20th anniversary season.

TMC provided the choral backdrop during the first half of the concert, opening with the powerful Hymn to the Great City from the ballet Medny Vsadnik (The Bronze Horseman) by Ukrainian composer Reinhold Glière. Next was an arrangement of Evening Bells, enhanced by the talent of Steve Nixon. The first half then concluded with Polovetsian Dances from the opera Prince Igor by Russian composer Alexander Borodin.

Founded in 1988, WBS promotes the study and performance of folk music from Russia, Ukraine, and eastern Europe using traditional instruments: balalaika, domra, bayan, and related wind and percussion instruments. WBS Orchestra has grown from an initial membership of 8 to more than 50 and is now the largest of its kind in America, with musicians of all levels and ages.

The concert was presented on Saturday June 6 at 7:30 pm at the Rachel M Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center in Alexandria, Virginia.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Night at the Opera

For its fourth concert of the 2008-09 season, The Metropolitan Chorus (TMC) presented an evening of favorite opera choruses and solos, featuring the concert verson of Porgy and Bess by George Gershwin. Program selections were discussed during a pre-concert lecture by TMC's artistic director, Barry Hemphill. Solosts included Gina Powell (soprano), Winona Stanback (soprano), Colin Eaton (tenor), and Alvy Powell (bass-baritone).

The program began with Le carnaval Romain, ouverture pour orchestre (Roman carnival overture) by French Romantic composer Hector Berlioz (comprised of materials and themes from Berlioz's opera Benvenuto Cellini).

Opera choruses performed by TMC included:
  • Don, din, don - suona vespro (Bell chorus) from the opera Pagliacci by Italian composer Ruggero Leoncavallo

  • Va, pensiero, sull'ali dorate (Chorus of the Hebrew slaves) from the opera Nabucco by Italian Romantic composer Giuseppe Verdi

  • Coro a bocca chiusa (Humming chorus) from the opera Madam Buterfly by Italian composer Giacomo Puccini

  • O welche Lust! (Prisoners' chorus) from the opera Fidelio by German composer and pianist Ludwig van Beethoven

  • Vedi le fosche notturne (Anvil chorus) from the opera Il Trovatore by Italian Romantic composer Giuseppe Verdi

  • Polovetsian dances from the opera Prince Igor by Russian composer Alexander Borodin
Solo performances included:
  • Pleurez! Pleurez, mes yeux! from the opera Le Cid by French composer Jules Massenet

  • Where ‘er you walk from the opera Semele by German-English Baroque composer George Frideric Handel

  • When I am laid in earth (Dido's lament) from the opera Dido and Æneas by English Baroque composer Henry Purcell

  • Tombe degli avi miei from the tragic opera Lucia di Lammermoor by Italian composer Gaetano Donizetti

  • Vous qui faites l’endormie from the opera Faust by French composer Charles Gounod
The concert was presented on Saturday May 16 at 8 pm, with pre-concert lecture beginning at 7 pm, at Kenmore Middle School in Arlington, Virginia.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Light Up Washington

Continuing The Metropolitan Chorus' community outreach, The Met Singers were invited to perform during the Light Up Washington Small Business Conference Luncheon in Washington, DC. The luncheon paid tribute to small business owners and government officials and experts for their efforts in developing and promoting small businesses.

The luncheon also was part of the Light Up Washington Small Business Trade Show, an annual event designed to stimulate small business growth and provide employment to the unemployed. The trade show also provides remarkable opportunities for community-based businesses to market their goods and services to a widespread, diverse, and influential audience.

The opportunity for The Met Singers to perform was due to Jay McElroy, president and CEO of Premier Small Business Solutions. In addition to coordinating the luncheon, Ms McElroy worked with Washington, DC wards to hire for the trade show 10 unemployed workers from each ward.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

America's Polo Cup

As part of The Metropolitan Chorus' community outreach, The Met Singers were invited to perform at the America's Polo Cup match between the United States and Australia at the Capitol Polo Club in Poolesville, Maryland. Music selections inlcuded: This Land Is Your Land, Anchors Aweigh, America the Beautiful, I Still Call Australia Home, and This Is My Country.

The event honored the Battle of the Coral Sea, a major naval battle in the Pacific Theater of World War II between the Imperial Japanese Navy and Allied naval and air forces from the United States and Australia. In commemoration of the bi-lateral relationship between the two nations, attendees experienced a special Battle of the Coral Sea Air Show featuring original warbirds and Japanese aircraft as well as other high-flying demonstrations, military presentations, and fireworks show.