When Welsh composer Karl Jenkins in 1999 to a commission from the ‘Royal Armouries’ to mark the millennium wrote ”The Armed Man” or “L’homme armé” he continued a 600-year tradition. He gave it the subtitle “A Mass for Peace”, and dedicated it to victims of the Kosovo crisis.
“L’homme armé” was a French secular song from the time of the Renaissance. It was the most popular tune used for musical settings of the Ordinary of the Mass: over 40 separate compositions entitled Missa L’homme armé survive from the period. Composers like Josquin, and Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina set at least one mass on this melody.
The Most Popular work
The piece is one of Jenkins’ most popular works, and is regularly performed by professional and amateur musicians. By March 2008 it had already seen 537 performances worldwide. Of the 348 UK performances, the majority were by non-professionals.
Karl Jenkins chose the Renaissance French secular song, “L’homme armé”, “The Armed Man”, as the basis for his “Mass for Peace”. The song, which may have gained in popularity after the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453, was used as the cantus firmus (leading theme) in many Latin masses. The tradition of using the tune lasted into the 16th century and composers as notable as Dufay and Ockeghem employed it. Although Jenkins’ work is the most widely known in the contemporary repertoire, Peter Maxwell Davies wrote his “Missa super l’homme armé” in 1968. The message, which Jenkins expands throughout his mass, is that soldiers—armed men, “bloody men”— are to be feared. The tune returns in a triumphant major at the end in the movement “Better is Peace”.
About the artists
A British composer who has written award-winning music for advertising, created this choral work for the Royal Armouries, a museum of medieval military objects housed in the Tower of London. The idea, writes the museum’s director, was to use the medieval tune L’homme armé (The Armed Man) to create a modern mass, just as composers of half a millennium ago did with some frequency — and thus “to look back and reflect as we leave behind the most war-torn and destructive century in human history.” L’homme armé is a little scrap of music saying basically that “the armed man must be feared.” No one really knows why it was so popular in its day, but one theory is that it referred to the mustering of forces that followed in the wake of the fall of Constantinople (now Istanbul) to Islamic forces in 1453
The North Coast Performing Arts Association
The only symphonic orchestra and choir organisation based in the North Coast region performing classical music of the highest standard to large scale public audiences. The PAA consists of many enthusiastic musicians and singers of all ages.
Although the PAA was formed as a choir and orchestra to perform choral and orchestral classical music, throughout the past 10 years, they have welcomed many other art forms in the group, including dance. It is their wish that they are inclusive of the arts, not only singers and musicians, and they are working on including different areas of the arts for future concerts.