‘The Armed Man’ Will Show Its Power at Concert for Peace

AUSTINTOWN, Ohio – “The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace,” an oratorio written in the wake of the 1998 Kosovo conflict, packs the tension and impact of war.

But the 90-minute masterpiece also derives power from the resolution of hostilities at its conclusion.

The piece, written by Welsh composer Karl Jenkins, got its world premiere in 2000 in London.

Local audiences can experience the landmark work Sunday, April 14, when the Stambaugh Chorus and Festival Orchestra present it at St. Joseph Church, 4545 New Road.

The concert will start at 4 p.m. Admission is free, but donations can be made upon entering to benefit the chorus, and upon leaving to benefit a local charity.

The chorus is presenting “The Armed Man” as this year’s installment of its Peace Concert series.

The goal of the concerts is to inspire unity and peace through the power of the human voice. The chorus has presented the concert four times so far. It last performed “The Armed Man” in 2014.

This year’s event will feature more than 90 voices and a live orchestra.

Guest choirs taking part in the entire concert include the Dana Chorale and Thiel College Choir. Voices of YSU, Franklin (Pa.) High School Choir and the Canfield Presbyterian Church Chancel Choir will contribute to the opening and closing movements.

Hae-Jong Lee, a professor and choral director at Youngstown State University’s Dana School of Music, founded and directs the Peace Concert series. Lee is also director of the Stambaugh Chorus.

“The music is so moving,” Lee said.

A documentary-style film made by Hefin Owen will accompany the concert and illustrate each musical moment. It depicts scenes that show the rising anger and preparation for war by politicians and armed forces, followed by battle scenes, human suffering and the aftermath. One scene shows Adolf Hitler addressing his forces.

The film was made specifically to accompany performances of “The Armed Man” and is the reason why the performance is at St. Joseph’s Church this year. Past productions were at Stambaugh Auditorium.

“St. Joseph’s has two large screens [permanently mounted on either side of the altar] where the film will be shown,” Lee said. The screens are used during Masses at the church so people in the rear pews can see the altar better and follow along with the lyrics to hymns.

Moving the concert to St. Joseph’s eliminates the expense of renting screens and mounting them above the stage at Stambaugh, Lee said.

Jason Volovar, music director at St. Joseph’s and a member of the Stambaugh Chorus, was instrumental in securing the church for this year’s Peace Concert.

“The Armed Man” uses the structure and melodies of a traditional catholic Mass. It also borrows from other religious and historical sources, including poems from India and Japan, and a Muslim prayer. It is divided into 13 movements, which run through the stages of conflict.

In its initial movement, “it is ominous, like a preparation for war,” Lee said. “The movement ends with crashing sounds, signifying some sort of bombing.”

It also incorporates a traditional prayer of soldiers, asking “for the courage to die,” Lee said.

A movement based on the Latin Mass benediction chant “is the most heart wrenching piece,” Lee said.

The concert ends with the choir singing a capella to usher in 1,000 years of peace. The audience is invited to join in singing “Let there be Peace on Earth” at the conclusion.

Pictured at top: Hae-Jong Lee conducts the Stambaugh Chorus during a 2022 concert at Stambaugh Auditorium.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.