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TODD MACLEAN: Awed by ‘The Armed Man’

As the evening spring sun draped itself in through the stained glass of Trinity United Church last Friday, music director Don Fraser set a peaceful tone with a placid organ intro to begin the program for Choral Music on a holy day.
As the evening spring sun draped itself in through the stained glass of Trinity United Church last Friday, music director Don Fraser set a peaceful tone with a placid organ intro to begin the program for Choral Music on a holy day.

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - As the evening spring sun draped itself in through the stained glass of Trinity United Church last Friday, music director Don Fraser set a peaceful tone with a placid organ intro to begin the program for Choral Music on a holy day.

An annual Good Friday presentation of the Confederation Centre’s choral music program, the concert was well attended – surely in many cases by those wishing to have a musically moving experience in recognition of the sacred day.

Following Fraser’s introductory piece, O Mensch, Bewein Dein Sünde Gross by Johann Sebastian Bach, the Confederation Singers stood to fill the bright sanctuary with the bright sound of their multi-layered voices in Chorale from the Passion According to Saint John, and Kyrie - Missa L-homme armé by Johannes Ockeghem.

Then it was time for the evening’s feature presentation — the military rat-a-tat of Brandon Kelly’s snare drum paraded us into the unfolding world of Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man.

Composed in 1999 and dedicated to the victims of the Kosovo crisis, the “Mass for Peace” (as its subtitle reads) is at its heart an anti-war mass: and what a ride of soundscapes and sentiments it takes the listener on, as the musical path winds its way to that theme.

Choral voices soon joined the plodding march forward, along with triumphant trumpets (Laura MacLeod and Henry Orford) and pounding timpani (Dave Shepard), as the full 12-piece orchestra soon elevated the sound the meet the choir’s invigorating chanting, as that first piece of The Armed Man (entitled “Call to Prayers”) accelerated to a grand halt of a finish.

In that quiet, the voice of Masoud Fahandezhsaadi echoed about the church, as many sets of eyes closed to take in the spine-chilling beauty of an a cappella sung Islamic Prayer, delivered by the Iranian man from the front of the balcony above and behind us.

The voice of soprano Shannon Scales, then led us in gentle purity to the meditative experience of “Kyrie,” as the Confederation Singers and orchestra rang out with vibrance, while the deep immersion into the ominous, grave realm of war then continued through the rightfully unsettling “Save Me From Bloody Men” and “Sanctus.”

The orchestra also included Sean Kemp and Karen Graves on violin, Gail Teixeira on viola, Natalie Williams Calhoun on cello, Bill Bartlett on bass, Frances McBurnie on organ, Sarah Chace on flute/piccolo, and Ryan Drew on percussion, as each served to enrich the multi-textured escapade of each varying piece within the mass.

Todd’s picks

1.    Sons of the Pioneers – Confederation Centre Homburg Theatre, Friday at 7:30 p.m. 

2. First Annual Atlantic Green Expo – UPEI School of Sustainable Design Engineering, Friday, Saturday (Earth Day) and Sunday. Visit https://www.facebook.com/AtlGreenEx for more info and schedule.

3. Self–love Saturday – various locations in Charlottetown, Saturday from 10 a.m. to midnight. Featuring yoga, a fun run, lip sync battle, Island Kitchen Party and more. Visit www.mhgpei.com for informaion and tickets.

4. Erin Costello sings Carole King – The Dunk, Breadalbane, Saturday at 7:30 p.m. 

5. P.E.I. Symphony Orchestra: Mozart & Marc Djokic – Zion Presbyterian Church, Sunday at 2:30 p.m. There will also be a pre-concert talk with violinist Marc Djokic at Zion Church about an hour before the performance.

The choir should be especially commended for its commitment to what The Armed Man called for, from piece to piece – as, for example, the final sounds of “Charge!” were stirring, melody-less shouts and wails, to mimic war cries. This was followed by a distinctly eerie silence, parted moments later by the notes of The Last Post on the trumpet.

Saddening and even disturbing at times, The Armed Man certainly required all of its performers to be entirely immersed in the raw emotion of each crucial part of the piece – all of it cogs in the maniacal machine that played out for our ears.

Near the mass’ end, the lovely voice of alto soloist Suzanne Campbell was sobering, as she sang, “Silent, so silent now the guns have stopped”; and yet, the melody of Benedictus, rising up almost like a plant from volcanic ash, led by the glow of Natalie Williams Calhoun’s cello, brought tears to the eyes in its re-instilling of peace.

And as I sat through the moving finale of “Better is Peace,” all I could think was, I wish all of our 2017 national leaders around the globe could be present to meditate on this truth with us on that night.

Next week: Sons of the Pioneers at Confederation Centre Homburg Theatre tonight.

Todd MacLean is a local freelance writer and musician. If you have a comment or suggestion for a review, you can get in touch with him at tmaclean@theguardian.pe.ca or at 626-1242. But he won’t be offended if you don’t.

 

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