The Armed Man, A Mass for Peace, Burton Town Hall.
Presented by Rolleston Choral Society with guest singers and featuring The Staffordshire Band.
The first part of this ‘golden celebration’ was given over to the Staffordshire Band under their conductor David Purkiss.
The band showed both their versatility and variety by showcasing music from film, familiar songs from the Great War, a hymn and Nightingale Dances, a variation on A Nightingale Sang in Berkley Square.
After the interval Simon Lesley took up the baton to take both band and the choral society through Welsh composer Karl Jenkins’ anti-war piece The Armed Man.
Commissioned by the Royal Armouries Museum for the Millennium it is dedicated to the victims of the Kosovo War. Kosovo has been in the news again recently when a football match between Serbia and Albania had to be abandoned after a drone carrying a flag caused an on-pitch brawl.
Essentially based on the Catholic Mass the piece also includes folk songs, the Islamic call to prayer, poetry by a Hiroshima survivor and a lyric taken from the Mahabharata, a major Sanskrit work.
The Armed Man follows the horrors that the march into warfare brings while its resolution offers that at the end of the day ‘God shall wipe away all tears.’
The society was joined by guest singers – one of whom was the wonderful Linda Kemp who has appeared on stages in Burton with both Burton Operatic Society and New Era – always a delight.
The call to prayer was made by Amran Ellahi and had a moving echo-effect so that it resonated through the town hall.
Although The Armed Man has a running time of more than an hour the piece just flew by as intricate harmonies, vocal dexterity and brass instruments wove a tale of war, needless death and a final hope for world peace around the stage.
A worthy work to mark Rolleston Choral Society’s 50th anniversary. Admirably performed by a group who looked as though they were enjoying being there as much as we were delighting in their wonderful talent.