The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace

I recently listened to this choral and symphonic work by Karl Jenkins, an anti-war piece written at the end of the twentieth century based on the Catholic mass.  I found many of the tracks very atmospheric, in particular one called ‘Sanctus’.

This piece starts with a repeated rhythm on a drum and bass line, and a conversation between the singers and two trumpets.  It’s in a minor key, with the opening melody descending in semitones from the dominant which gives it an anticipatory feel.  At the end of the opening phrase there is a brief discordant clash in the choral parts, setting an uncomfortable and tense mood.  The tension builds further when a quiet sustained note in the brass is added in.

The tension gives way to a much louder and more dramatic section involving the whole symphony orchestra.  Jenkins uses moments of silence very effectively to transition to this section, and also back again to a recap of the quieter opening.


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