The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace – Benedictus

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.



About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including several #1 sellers. I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. I run my private tours company with one tour stated by the leading travel website as being with the #1 authentic London Experience. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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11 Responses to The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace – Benedictus

  1. IsyLLiS says:

    Hi Stepehen! Thank you for sharing this beautiful composition. Hauntingly beautiful! I loved your story too. I am glad you finally found out that this was Karl Jenkin’s composition. I am listening to it now and I shall tell you, when I know myself, where it transports me.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Anon Rand says:

    I enjoy classical music! Thanks for posting about this!

    As a side, did you know that there is an app that will cross search and reference many songs on the internet based on a recording you input into it? I haven’t used it personally, but it seems to work. If you ever find yourself in this predicament, you can try it lol. I don’t know if humming a recording of it will work, but technology these days is getting more amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad that you enjoyed the post. I have an App called Sound Hound but never had it nearby when I could hear the music. I tried several times to hum or sing the music but between my voice and the App, we ended up getting lots of music but none of it classical! It is amazing though I agree.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. modestly says:

    We discovered it some years ago and it is amazing. We have tickets to hear Karl Jenkins ‘The Armed Man’ performed at The Royal Albert Hall’ Can’t wait!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It looks like you will have a great afternoon there. Any chance to experience music in The Royal Albert Hall is unmissable. Thanks for posting the link too, sadly I am working on a tour that day 😦 but now I know what I am looking for, I am sure it is just a matter of time before I get to hear it live too.


  4. Stephen, I don’t know which was more poignant, your writing or the music. Thanks for broadening my horizon. The Uncommon Mariner

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Francis says:

    The music is beautiful.thanks for introducing it to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. 2BKind says:

    I listened, it has within the first part a call and an answer, which made me think of the times I have seen in my minds~eye across the field to the children playing out of reach of my call, but that the seeing them is the call and the answer is in me seeing them. It also makes me think of all the sheep and their thoughts about their lambs, how they must feel each as they look across the field and they are not there, always children. I hate war and the taking of young lives, just as much as I hate the unnecessary taking of any young life. It is always the children and the young that suffer, because humans haven’t evolved enough to stop killing. The music will always be to me a mother’s mind calling a memory across a field and the answer is to see children play. Peace be in the seeing children play and we are all children. Blessed be.


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