It's a grand night for singing
The Armed Man
The Armed Man - A Mass for Peace
Nelson Civic Choir and Orchestra with guests
Nelson College, October 26 at 2pm
Reviewed by Adrienne Matthews
This was a performance I had been looking forward to. Widely publicized for having been banned from the Cathedral, I was intrigued to see what all the fuss was about and was staggered to see so many hundreds of people turn up at mid-afternoon on a sunny Labour Day to experience it.
The Catholic Mass forms the framework within which composer Sir Karl Jenkins weaves words and music from other religions, beliefs, writers and cultures to create a series of pictures of war and its effects while, all the time, urging peace.
A video screen with clips from many conflicts ensured this was both a visual and auditory experience, all the more powerful because of it.
From the first marching drum beats and the French folksong "L'Homme Armé" (The Armed Man"), the audience was spellbound. Twelve more sections followed, each with its own emphasis and unique sound qualities.
The Islamic call to prayer was sung hauntingly by Naif Alzahrani. Soprano Zoe Bennett provided a clear lilting tone in Kyrie Eleison, and "Save Me From Angry Men", in the style of Gregorian Chant, was sung excellently a capella by the tenors and basses.
I found "Angry Flames", the setting of a poem by Japanese poet Toge Sankichi, profoundly moving. As the bomb blast over Hiroshima filled the screen, the soloists Bennett, Lyndal Howey (alto), Saul Gibney (tenor) and Martin Leeper (bass) led the choir in a lament that sent shivers down my spine.
At every point was a new highlight, from the magnificent rendition of the Last Post by Raffael e Bandoli to the blissful cello of Lissa Cowie. The choir and orchestra were outstanding. musical director and conductor Chris Lukies deserves every accolade for bringing this work to such a high standard. With the inclusion of performers from as far away as Wellington and Christchurch, it must have been a challenge to accomplish such unity.
The acoustics could have been better (a school hall is not the ideal venue for a performance of this calibre) but the impact was not lessened by this.