The Armed Man: Saginaw Choral Society at The Temple Theatre

Reviewer: Connor S. Rousseau

Venue: The Temple Theatre

The Saginaw Choral Society performs ‘A Mass for Peace: A coomunity Concert for Peace” by composer Karl Jenkins

The pensive work of Karl Jenkins was performed at the Temple Theatre on Saturday. The Armed Man, a Mass for Peace, was a well-timed concert by the Saginaw Choral Society, especially considering the current events of the world and the headlines we find ourselves face to face with daily. In a sensitive political world, Jenkins’ themes on war and peace were sung to life. 

From the very first note, the performance was complemented by historic footage of many nations’ robust armies. Nazis on parade goose-stepped through Paris, Chinese soldiers marched in unison, and there were paintings of Crusaders engaged in brutal combat. Allied soldiers strolled through a liberated Paris and Spartan warriors faced off with Persians… Different days. Foreign conflicts. Bloody battles with victors and vanquished… But one theme echoed throughout: War. Terrible war.  

The performance transitioned into images of beautiful churches with angelic voices. Images of towering cathedrals, verdant hills, and a yellow sun brought peace to the audience. We were teased with an ideal peace, but it was temporary, for we were soon sent onto the frontlines of war. 

Footage of artillery firing and cannons loosening accelerated until a chorus of haunting high notes released a deadly dissonance. Images and paintings depicting war furiously flashed on as the voices grew louder. It felt as if I were entranced by death itself as I witnessed the terrible power man possesses to unleash hell on earth.  

Many paintings of war were triumphant and jubilant, showing how war is often depicted as a symbol of power and a source of pride. Kim Jong Un was hugged by his most devoted citizens and Vladimir Putin flexed his muscles. Intrepid generals commanded their units from atop their horses. Images spanned from the era of Sparta and Persia to the Crusades, the American Revolution, the Civil War, World War I, World War II, and modern warfare in the Middle East.  

The Choral Society sang out words begging the Lord for mercy as images of crosses and tombstones crossed the screen. War has consequences, and footage of displaced refugees and those fleeing their homelands reminded me that when the guns have finished firing, the bullets have ceased to rain, and the smoke has cleared, the ramifications begin. Footage of atom bombs detonating and references to Hiroshima and Nagasaki reminded me that war has lifelong consequences. 

We are so accustomed to war and conflict, and a quote by Cousteau that appeared on the screen resonated with me: “… do we know how to act when confronted by peace?” Could we humans be triumphant without a war? Could we be victorious without a battle? 

It is easy for one to say war is bad, but when recent footage of Palestinian protestors waving Palestine’s flag in mass protest against the war in Gaza flashed on the screen, it reminded me that war is controversial. A historic image of American protestors asking for peace with Hitler flashed before my eyes and made me wonder if peace is always the solution, or if there is a just cause for war.  

All philosophy aside, I left with a deeper understanding of death and controversial conflicts. I left with a greater reverence for the nobility of peace. Mankind is capable of great things, and we are the ones who define “great.”  

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