Mapping a terrifying descent into conflict

REVIEW: Alnwick Choral Society, Remembrance Sunday concert, St Paul’s Church, Alnwick, Sunday, November 9.

Written after the Kosovo conflict, Jenkins, The Armed Man, maps a terrifying descent into war. Amidst the intense horrors of conflict, there are moments of calm reflection, until combatants and victims finally seek a peace in a new millennium.

Alnwick Choral Society brought this amazing work to life on Remembrance Sunday, in St Paul’s Church. Peter Brown, musical director, conducted the programme that included In Flanders Fields, his own powerful and poignant composition of John McCrae’s poem, and Faure’s Requiem.

In The Armed Man, the prayers of the world’s great religions are used by Jenkins who weaves the calm, reflective Kyrie and Call To Prayer between a menacing Sanctus and Hymn Before Action.

The martial trumpets of the Charge quicken the pulse, but are followed by the chilling, agonized howls of the dying and the silence of the battlefield when all are gone.

The Last Post is intensely moving. The Agnus Dei and Sanctus begin an ascent from the terrifying pit of war until hope returns with Now The Guns Have Stopped, and Better is Peace eases us further from the conflict. Faure’s Requiem, with its calm prayers and reflections for a life now over, was beautifully delivered by the choir and prepared the audience well for the emotional experience that was to follow. The choir at its best, with drums, trumpets and organ, captured everything in Jenkins’ very moving composition.

The Armed Man brought a superb performance from the choir and fully justified the very prolonged applause of the audience. Aremarkable experience they will not forget and all the more poignant on Remembrance Sunday.