Other Voices
Sue Clark

Back to: Columns
September 29, 2012
Follow Columns

‘The Armed Man’: A must for all persuasions

“The government better not deploy you this week,” I warned my husband, only half-joking.

Robert missed last spring’s two performances of Carl Jenkins’ “The Armed Man” by days. In reality, he has no choice when he is sent to various sites across the country, but I was devoutly hoping he’d not be deployed until, say, Friday. Would the government understand? Had they heard this piece last spring, perhaps they would.

The Sierra Master Chorale and Orchestra partnered Thursday to perform this viscerally moving concert about war and peace for a third time. And all points of view will be in attendance.

My husband left the Vietnam War a pacifist. He will get satisfaction from this piece. His sister, a military wife for several years, is an avowed patriot and supports war if necessary. She and I often agree to disagree. She, too, would leave this concert feeling honored.

I sent a brochure to my daughter and her boyfriend, not because they’d be able to make the commute from the coast but so that they would understand what I’d been raving about for six months.

The multi-leveled appeal of “The Armed Man” is in its respect for all points of view regarding war, and that is why we’ll have groups of veterans, peace organizations, conservatives and liberals in attendance this week. “The Armed Man” touches something deep inside concert-goers of every persuasion, which is part of its magic.

“I got two tickets; I’ll see you there,” says a friend who hadn’t experienced much choral music until the spring performances. She’ll bring Kleenex, as will others.

Carl Jenkins, a Welsh composer, wrote this piece in 1999, to honor the victims of Kosovo. His goal was to make the music accessible to a wide range of ages, philosophies, hearts and minds.

When we sang last spring, I saw several of my friends openly weeping. Some were from a local peace organization, and others were proud veterans of various wars. “The Armed Man” honors them all.

Some of the movements bring the audience into the fervent, almost hypnotic state of patriotism that precludes being sent off to conflict. Other movements are beatific, ethereal and more like cathartic blessings after the destruction.

To say the concert moves the audience is an understatement. Any of us who sing it, play it or hear it are automatically bound to each other in emotion. For me, it is hard not to cry while and after I sing. We feel as comrades with our orchestra, which has a demanding job to do, and while singing, I sometimes feel that chorister’s dream: to be almost as one with the conductor, Ken Hardin. It’s the ineffable effect a singer experiences when the choir, conductor and orchestra think and feel as an entity.

This is an experience that’s happened to me in choral singing from time to time, but it happens every time we sing this concert.

In my 55 years of choral singing, this is my favorite concert. I’ve loved may others; Handel, Bach, Faure, Mozart and others have claims on my heart. But the Jenkins piece is special.

I’m reminded of one of my favorite movies: “Dead Man Walking.” When I left that movie, whether I was pro-death penalty or against it, I felt respected.

That is the appeal of “The Armed Man.” In the same way that the message is peace, the way it’s conveyed is in a respect for all philosophies — a peaceful action from composer to audience.

Sue Clark lives in Grass Valley.


Explore Related Articles

The Union Updated Nov 16, 2012 12:02PM Published Oct 16, 2012 07:30AM Copyright 2012 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.