Music for Peace runs on Jan. 31 at centre

Three choirs of the Grand Phil­harmonic are joining forces to sing for peace on Jan. 31. 

Two dramatically-charged works exploring the all-too-relevant themes of war and peace will be performed by the Grand Philharmonic Choir, the Child­ren’s Choir and the Youth Choir together with the Kit­chener-Waterloo Symphony on Jan. 31 at 7:30pm at Centre in the Square. 

Grand Philharmonic Choir Artistic Director Howard Dyck will direct these vast musical forces.

Threnody (meaning “lament for the dead”) by Canada’s R. Murray Schafer is a deeply moving work for youthful narrators, prepared tape recording, orchestra and youth choir. 

Written in 1966 as an anti-war protest, the spoken text comes from children’s eye-witness accounts of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. 

It is an unforgettable work, juxtaposing young voices with sobering, mature themes. Im­provisation from the orchestra leaves the audience torn be­tween the hard truth of the words and the freedom of the music. 

Dyck has conducted this work by Canada’s pre-eminent composer on two previous occasions, and both times “the audience was in tears.”

Dyck added, “We are pleased that the mayor of Nagasaki has sent us a special message of appreciation which will be printed in the concert program.”

The Armed Man, A Mass for Peace is by the contemporary Welsh composer Karl Jenkins, who is internationally ac­claimed for his film score (River Queen) and the Adiemus project.

The spectacular Armed Man, which has already re­ceived hundreds of performances around the world, was commissioned by the Royal Armouries Museum as a Millennium project.

“As I started composing The Armed Man, the tragedy of Kosovo unfolded. I was reminded daily of the horror of such conflict and so I dedicated the work to the victims of Kosovo,” Karl Jenkins ex­plained, “

Like Threnody, by Schafer, this “journey through fire evokes the horrors inflicted by arms, and mourns the tragically increasing civilian toll of war.” 

Although based loosely on the Christian liturgical mass and using the enormously popular 15th century song L’homme armé (The Armed Man) as its basis, it draws its texts from a wide variety of sources, including The Holy Bible, Kipling, Swift, Malory, Dryden, the Hindu Mahàbà­rata, and the Koran in the form of a muezzin’s call to prayer. 

One movement highlights a text translated from a Japanese poem describing a city left in flames, which echoes the setting for Schafer’s Threnody

The music concludes on a joyful and hopeful note with Tennyson’s “Ring out the thousand wars of old.”

The entire work is highly accessible with a succession of memorable melodies, harmonies, rhythms and orchestral and choral effects.

 For the local premiere of The Armed Man, A Mass for Peace, the Grand Philharmonic Adult Choir will be joined by the Grand Youth (conductor Nancy Tanguay) and Child­ren’s Choirs (conductors Susan Watt and Robert Wilkie) and the full Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony.

Of particular interest is the fact that Adhaan, the Islamic call to prayer, will be delivered by Alkan Mehmet, the muezzin at the local mosque in Wat­erloo.

Rabbi  and cantor Yosil Rosenzweig of Kitchener’s Beth Jacob Synagogue will chant a Hebrew prayer in The Armed Man.  

“The enthusiasm shown by Rabbi Rosenzweig and Mr. Mehmet and the Imam of the local Muslim community have been most gratifying,” said Dyck.

“We hope that this concert will play a small role in fostering a spirit of unity and mutual understanding among various religious and cultural traditions in Waterloo Region, singing music for peace.”

Journey through Fire tickets  are on sale now, with prices ranging from $20 to $60 ($18 to $60 for seniors).

To order tickets, visit the Centre in the Square box office, Centre in the Square online box office, or call 519-578-1570 or toll-free 1-800-265-8977.