I joined the choir at my daughter’s school for a performance of selections from Karl Jenkins’ Armed Man mass. Not being a Classic FM devotee, I’d not heard the piece before and wasn’t sure how I’d get on with it. I’d be happy to sing it again – which ranks it above quite a few things I’ve sung – although I found the vocal writing pretty unsympathetic. I counted 24 top As in the (undivided) soprano line, and there are quite a few more in the entire work! Perhaps I’m a bit unfair, as I would have liked to sing the more melodic Kyrie and Agnus Dei, but the parents’ choir weren’t involved in these movements.
Like Britten’s War Requiem, this aspires to be a work for the world by including non-Western musical elements but is more thorough-going by widening the range of origins of the texts too. (When I sang it two years ago, I wasn’t really convinced by Britten’s use of gamelan style).
We didn’t find it very hard to learn, which I think was due to a large amount of repetition so the musical content went a long way. I gather this wasn’t the first such concert, so I hope I’ll get a chance to augment the school choir again.