I have known Sir Karl Jenkins for about 10 years now, meeting him briefly for ClassicFM concerts where he conducted the Benedictus from The Armed Man. In recent years I have worked with him more regularly and we have become close colleagues.
During the COVID lockdown period I explored some recording ideas so that Hertfordshire Chorus could hit the ground running once we returned to full action. One of these ideas was a total shot in the dark – to ask Karl Jenkins and his publisher (Boosey) if we could make the first ever recording of the ensemble version (strings, flute/piccolo, 3 trumpets, percussion and organ) of The Armed Man. To my delight, they agreed to this and immediately we approached Signum Records who agreed to collaborate on this project.
We recorded the work in St Augustine’s Church, Kilburn in November 2022 and it was released on 12 January 2024. It was very clear from the sessions that this reduced scoring did not affect the impact and dynamism of the work and in some ways, the textures come across more clearly. Many choirs all over the world opt for this version and so the recording will be invaluable for their preparation of the work. Whilst many know the work through the popularity of the Benedictus, it is a work of great contrasts and at times it is painfully brutal as well as tender and peaceful. As well as depicting the horrors of war, it urges us to work towards peace, and this is its ultimate message.
Karl is one of the world’s most celebrated and successful composers, and at the same time he is extremely modest, supportive and kind. He attended one of the sessions and has also been involved in the post production work. For my part, I am immensely proud of my choir and all performers on the album.