THE cathedral at St David’s has been host to some major classical music events over the years, but Britain’s smallest city must surely count Saturday’s event (May 6) among its greatest.
Welsh composer and conductor Sir Karl Jenkins made his first visit to the cathedral in a special concert for Milford Haven Music Festival, of which he is also patron.
The sell-out performance attracted concert-goers from across the UK as the conductor was joined by Côr Caerdydd, the British Sinfonietta and soloists baritone Gary Griffiths and mezzo-soprano Sioned Gwen Davies for a performance of a number of his works.
The main event of the evening was The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace, a phenomenally successful work performed - as compere for the evening, opera singer and presenter Beverley Humphreys, revealed - somewhere in the world twice a week.
That amazing statistic has helped earn Sir Karl the accolade of the world’s most performed living composer.
It was not hard to see why –. bringing together the massive forces of a 90-strong orchestra and a 70-strong choir, the work received a thrilling, riveting and highly emotional performance.
Sir Karl’s background as a student at the Royal Academy of Music, then a jazz musician, later with prog rock band Soft Machine and then as composer of some iconic ad campaigns of the 1980s and 90s, has provided him with a musical style that is at once intelligent and accessible.
He has succeeded in blending global musical rhythms and influences with the rigours classical choral music. There can have been few more attention-grabbing moments than the Muslim muezzin’s call to prayer echoing from the ancient stones of the cathedral.
Yet there was so much more than that as those forces were skilfully brought to bear in a mass that expresses the horror and futility of war, its bravery and drama and closes with a sobering plea for tolerance and hopes for peace from writers as diverse as Tennyson and the Book of Revelation.
Milford Haven’s music festival does not take place until September but this was a bold and imaginative forerunner, and one whose reverberations will still be felt in four months’ time by those who were lucky enough to have got a ticket.