THE ARMED MAN
Brentwood Arts Festival at Brentwood International Centre
Karl Jenkins' popular and accessible Mass for Peace made a perfect ending to Brentwood Arts Festival's commemoration of the Great War.
Rain on the roof, thunder overhead, and massed choirs behind the Brentwood Symphony Orchestra; it was a stirring occasion. Commissioned by the Royal Armouries for the Millennium, the work begins with distant trumpet and drums, explores mankind's destructive obsession with war using a variety of texts from many ages and diverse cultures and ends with an optimistic vision of peace from Revelation.
In the less than ideal acoustic of the Brentwood Centre's vast hall, Dryden's “thundering drum” fared particularly well, as did the more contemplative orchestral moments from solo cello, and the trumpeter's Last Post, following a great roar from the chorus, and preceding the moving “Angry Flames”. The massed choirs, too, made a splendid sound, in the rhythmic Sanctus, say, or the expansive [could be Korngold] Kipling setting. And the Brentwood Songsters Children's Choir, made its mark with Torches, from the Mahabharata.
The solo singers – no fewer than four in this performance – fared less well, and often struggled to reach the back of the audience. Mezzo Susan Marrs had a lovely moment, though, in “Silent, so silent now” from Guy Wilson's Now The Guns Have Stopped.
The massed choirs – Hutton and Shenfield Choral Society, Brentwood Choral Society, Howard Wallace Chorale, Bra-Vissima, Times and Seasons, Brentwood Songsters – and the augmented orchestra – Brentwood Philharmonic and Phoenix Youth Orchestra – were conducted by Tim Hooper.
An impressive curtain-raiser from the Royal British Legion Youth Band, who took us from Teddy Bears to Va Pensiero, and ended with a Great Wars Singalong and a patriotic medley.