Karl Jenkins – The Armed Man; Ariel Ramirez – Misa Criolla

CONCERT REVIEW – Saturday 12th November 2005 at the RNCM

Ariel Ramirez – Misa Criolla

Karl Jenkins – The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace

Review by Emma Loat (Contralto 1) and Rima Gasperas (Soprano 1)

The Best Yet?

This was certainly the most adventurous and exciting concert that ACS has put on since the two of us joined in September 2004 – and after listening to the feedback from other choir members it was probably the best concert in the last 25 years! It was a challenging and mixed programme. Perhaps its success is best reflected by the large and enthusiastic audience (not all friends of the choir!) – who were attracted by the interesting and less ‘traditional’ programme.

Despite Steven’s valiant efforts to sing the tenor solo during our rehearsals, the choir parts for the Ramirez really began to come alive on the day of the concert with tenor Alexander Grove and the eclectic RNCM instrumental accompaniment – including guitar and percussion. This can’t be classed as your typical choral piece – it is more of a solo with choral accompaniment – which relied on a very confident, virtuosic and talented soloist!  Our spies in the audience were pleasantly surprised to hear ACS singing something so folky and rhythmic; we even managed to sound vaguely Spanish! It was a pity it was so short, as the overall effect was quite hypnotic and entrancing. All in all it was a remarkable success. We look forward to more ‘left field’ repertoire selection in the future.

The instrumental part of the concert comprised our accompanist Lydia Bryan and guest organist Jeffrey Makinson playing solo pieces. Lydia continued the Hispanic theme with a piece by Manuel de Falla. Jeffrey, as a complete contrast, played a classic Bach Fantasia and Fugue with impressive precision and masterful pedalling.

After the interval came the much anticipated Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man.

During rehearsal we’d found it a little mundane, trite and repetitive. However, in performance with instrumental accompaniment things were somewhat different. Even in the afternoon rehearsal at the RNCM (which was a record length!) the intensity and meaning in the music started to make an impact. When we were practising the ‘theatrical’ elements in Altrincham Methodist Church we were not entirely convinced that the marching, screaming and head bowing would work. On the night, however, all the elements – singing, instrumental playing, image projection and dramatisation – came together. Steven obviously believed in the work and had put a lot of time and effort into its staging. The result was highly effective and better – so some audience members thought – than Karl Jenkins’ own recent performance in Liverpool. Steven’s visuals, which included pictures of the horrors of war and photos of the twin towers during 9/11, seemed to connect powerfully with the audience.

The Muslim Call to Prayer was performed by 11 year old Thabet Abdulmalek. Despite his youth, he showed the confidence and maturity of delivery which would be expected of a much older Muezzin. Short solo performances by choir members Helen McBride and Amy Smith were extraordinarily touching and evocative.

Audience and choir were well aware of the poignancy of the piece, being given on the day before Remembrance Sunday. At the end, a sustained silence – rather than an immediate round of applause – acknowledged our performance.

At the ‘debriefing’ session on the following Monday rehearsal, many choir members wanted to report how affected their guests in the audience had been. One group of friends who had planned a celebratory dinner afterwards felt it was inappropriate to the occasion – and cancelled it. A member of 25 years’ standing could not remember a more emotional performance. An email from a new guest said simply: “It was a deeply moving and truly prayerful experience. You are a very fine choir.”

A little PS – We (and many of the audience) thought the ladies’ concert dress of all black was smart and effective and that we should adopt this style permanently.