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.

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