Spring 2014

Spring Poster 2014

THE ARMED MAN: A MASS FOR PEACE

Saturday 5th April 2014 at 7.30 p.m.

 

Four choirs – Reading Festival Chorus, Reading A440, South Chiltern Choral Society, Tamesis Chamber Choir – joined forces to commemorate the start of the First World War last week.

The choirs, joined by Ascot Brass, performed under the baton of Gwyn Arch, founder and director of South Chiltern Choral Society.

The main item was Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace and collections were made for the British Red Cross.

Following a powerful brass fanfare, each choir chose songs reflecting different aspects of the war.

Ascot Brass’s WW1 medley showcased their excellent ensemble and sensitivity, while Reading A440, with settings of poems by Wilfred Owen, and Tamesis, with For the Fallen, set exemplary standards of precision and tone production.

The second half brought the choirs together as an imposing collective of 200 voices to perform The Armed Man.

A long, 12-section work, it draws on an eclectic, multicultural range of sources, including Islamic prayer, Latin texts from the Catholic Liturgy, English psalms, Japanese poetry and Sanskrit text from the Mahabharata.

The massed choirs, in response to Gwyn Arch’s secure direction, produced a fabulous sound, while paying close attention to the dynamics. Well trained voices in the mix enhanced the texture, ensuring a memorable experience for performers and audience alike.

The overall effect, with quality resources to deliver it, was gripping, uplifting and full of energy, pathos and reflection.

There was no let-up. Early high points included the Kyrie, with its well-worked interaction between chorus and solo soprano, and Charge!, with its inspiring fanfare and brilliant high-register singing from the sopranos. The Last Post was dispatched with consummate purity by the principal trumpet.

The latter sections were to provide some of Jenkins’ more poignant reflections. The especially touching Agnus Dei, with its myriad of interesting harmonies, was sympathetically supported by the brass.

Nothing, however, could surpass the serene Benedictus, whose simple, yet insistent theme encapsulated the acute sense of loss from the futility of war. Hearing this, one can appreciate why Karl Jenkins is so cherished by choral societies.

Ascot Brass are to be congratulated on their orchestral role, and credit also goes to the solo singers, all choir members, who sang impeccably and whose purity of tone perfectly complemented the mood of the work.

Gwyn Arch’s farewell concert is on July 5, 2014, again in the Concert Hall, featuring South Chiltern Choral Society and Reading Male Voice Choir.

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