Do you ever have a situation where you hear a piece of music and don’t know what it is? Perhaps you hear a new song on the radio that you like the sound of but miss the introduction at the beginning or annoyingly the presenter doesn’t credit it at the end.
It’s hard enough when the music is a new release by a mainstream pop or RnB artist, but it’s harder still when it is a classical piece. I’ve had this piece of music in my head that I was beginning to think that I made up (see my post here on my imagination, day-dreams, and dreams that often come with their own soundtracks and background music).
I’ve been humming just a few seconds of this unknown piece of music for about ten years. It’s always seemed immensely sad and beautiful and for some reason whenever I visit old WW1 graves and memorials it always comes into my head. Often it also is with me when I visit the grave of my mother.
Once or twice a year I might hear a few bars of this music as the background for a documentary or other media piece and I just assumed it was some sort of advertising jingle, albeit unlike any I had ever heard before.
Then on Sunday afternoon, I was dropping off some tourists having had a day out visiting Blenheim Palace and exploring the villages that were used in the Downton Abbey television series. I had Classic FM on the radio as I sometimes do depending on the ages and tastes of the tourists. Having been chatting away for 6 or 7 hours, the car suddenly fell silent as we all listened intently to the beautiful music. I was pleased that I finally had heard the composition in full and was all ready and waiting for when I might hear what it was called. Then though we reached our destination and due to the parking restrictions, it necessitated a very quick exit from the car and a rushed goodbye including lowering the sound on the radio. 30 seconds later, I was on my way with the radi0 turned up but it was too late, it was all over.
That was that, or so I thought. I was destined to never find out anything more about one of the most moving musical compositions I had heard until I remembered the exact time I dropped off my guests at their hotel and on checking the Classic FM website on their playlist, found the piece of music. It was indeed real and not at all imagined.
It is called Benedictus by the British and specifically Welsh composer Karl Jenkins and is by far the star on his standout album The Armed Man: A Mass For Peace. The title of the album itself gave me some validation of why it appeared in my head when I visited the WW1 Western Front. The entire album has a theme of anti-war and was composed in 199 to honour the dead of the Kosovo conflict in the former Yugoslavia. Containing elements from the Christian Mass and other religious and historical sources including the Muslim Call To Prayer.
I’m not a great fan of modern Classical Music; I find much of it rather wishy-washy and new-age, but I adored Benedictus from the very first time I heard a sample of it 10 or more years ago. To me, it conjures up the peace and quiet after a horrific battle in WW1. Survivors huddled together for warmth, injured and dying men crying for their mothers in the still mist. Then dawn and the warm rays of the sun, the years pass and all is peaceful. Those who gave their lives have taken their place in heaven as someone like myself walks over the same soil and remembers their loss and suffering whilst being thankful that the present and future doesn’t have to be like the past or as the saying goes, they gave their tomorrows for our todays.
Do take a time to listen to this hauntingly beautiful music and let me know where it transports you as the choir sing like Angels.
If you’d like to learn more about WW1 or my visits there do search on my blog or visit the My Books section for more details.