The Armed Man ()

concert poster

In this performance of The Armed Man, A Mass for Peace by Karl Jenkins, Lichfield Cathedral Chorus will be joined by Thoresby Colliery Band.

This moving music was commissioned for the Millennium Celebrations and was written to bring hope for an end to war and terror. It has received world-wide acclaim and still stirs emotions at every performance.

The Band will also play JS Bach, Toccata in D minor and William Himes, Procession to Covenant

Conductor: Ben Lamb



Lichfield Cathedral, The Close, Lichfield, WS13 7LD [map]

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Review of "The Armed Man" concert 23.3.13

The hundreds of people who braved the snow and ice to go to the Cathedral last Saturday evening were not disappointed by their rare opportunity to hear the stunning Championship Thoresby Colliery Band along with the equally stunning Lichfield Cathedral Chorus, the main attraction being a performance of The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace by Karl Jenkins, parts of which are frequently heard on Classic FM.

But hearing it on the radio doesn’t begin to match the power of a live performance. This was a truly excellent account of a very moving work, written at the Millennium as a cry for peace in our troubled world. The work is based on a popular medieval melody which, following ancient tradition, is used as the basis of the Mass, and which was clearly set out at the opening of the work with a slightly chilling sense of what was to come as a result of taking up arms. The thirteen movements took us on a journey through the build-up to war, into a heart-rending and terrifying passage depicting war itself and the even more terrifying subsequent silence, broken by the most moving Last Post (played admirably by David Purkiss, the band’s conductor) which flowed into awareness of the horrors of war’s aftermath and finally hope for the future of our world. Thank goodness the unseasonal weather meant that we had no interval…it would have been an unwelcome intrusion on our journey.

So many moments stand out in this performance…the unforgettable Call to Prayer from the high gallery by Muezzin Wealands Bell, taking me straight back to Marrakech, (the unplanned chiming of the Cathedral bells adding more frisson to the moment…had Wealands deliberately pitched his chant to the bells?!), the use of both organs in colouring the mood (good to see Alex Mason back at the keyboard!), the beautiful cornet solo in the famous Benedictus, the intensely moving “Hymn before Action” stunningly performed by the choir, the horror of the poem Angry Flames reflected by Ailsa Cochrane’s guttural interpretation, the intensity of the final chorale, impressively sung from memory by an immaculately prepared Cathedral Chorus, ..there was so much that was excellent in this performance, in its precision, its careful preparation, its heartfelt involvement by all performers, that the overall effect was of a choir and band totally confident in their abilities to convey the profound message of the work.

Musically there is a huge diversity of styles, ranging from the medieval opening, through a Mozartian Kyrie, the well-controlled men’s voice Gregorian chant, the terrifying “Charge” (shades of Walton here) to a final “Better is Peace” movement containing hints of Hollywood spectaculars, but all styles were effortlessly mastered by a choir well trained by Ben Lamb to give an overall sense of clarity and apparent ease in performance.

Although I have heard snippets of the work many times on the radio and elsewhere, this was the first time I had heard a complete performance, and I found the use of the brass band a brilliant move. The wonderful warmth of tone seemed to blend with the very stones of the cathedral, and the balance between choir and instruments was perfect… the well-blended choir was always supported but never dominated, with the excellent percussion used to scintillating effect.

It was right that the concert should begin with three items by the band, all brilliantly executed. The third, an amazing upbeat arrangement of JS Bach’s famous Toccata in D minor, brought a smile to everyone in the building, even pedantic purists such as I! Bach survives everything. Lichfield is fortunate to have a link with this excellent Championship band, as the conductor is currently teaching at The Friary School. Let’s hope further collaborations will arise in the future.

Megan Barr, March 2013