How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Armed Man

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by Darin Steinkey, writer

When SMUS choir director Peter Butterfield first asked me to sing in the choir for the Music department’s spring showcase piece, named The Armed Man, he must have seen the hesitation in my eyes.

“Don’t worry about it, Darin,” he said. “It’s an easy piece. Great for beginners.”

When I arrived at the first rehearsal, took my place with the tenors and opened the music to the first page, it was an indication of what was to come:

L’homme, l’homme, l’homme arme,
L’homme arme
L’homme arme doit on douter, doit on douter

Now, my French isn’t perfect, but here is what it roughly translates to:

The man, the man, the armed man,
The armed man
The armed man should be feared, should be feared.

Watch the performance of L’Homme Arme.

Obviously, the music was referring to a wider problem than my reluctance to join a choir, but I hadn’t a clue how complex the piece was going to be.

It didn’t matter though. The opening, L’Homme Arme, caught my attention like a worm on the line. I was hooked by the Kyrie, recalling my days reciting and playing this poem while attending High Anglican Eucharist services. The Sanctus — all brooding strings, spare trumpet, dynamic changes and beautiful Latin — reeled me in.

Watch the performance of Sanctus.

The Music department extended an open invitation to staff, faculty and parents to perform as well. Before I knew it we were spending our Tuesday mornings and Thursday evenings being gently chided for ending words too quickly, not allowing them to ring out. We received equal parts encouragement when we sang “raath” rather than “raw-th” (a very important word in The Armed Man). Many of the parts were complex (for me at least), but it was a new and interesting way for my brain to process words and music.

Beyond singing with many colleagues and friends (not to mention the Victoria Philharmonic Choir), a highlight of the show was probably the Call to Prayers, beautifully chanted by Robert Wyatt, a Grade 12 student. I also enjoyed being able to breathe more easily when the orchestra struck up Better is Peace at the end.

Watch the performance of Better is Peace.

And the orchestra. I was amazed at their composure and timing. To hear the notes echo on full stops and fade when the mood changed was powerful.

In fact, “powerful” is the most common word I have heard about the performance since last night. It was powerful to be a part of and I’m glad Peter didn’t tell me the truth when convincing me to perform.

Congratulations to Donna Williams, Peter Butterfield, John Reid and the amazingly talented musicians and singers who mounted such a marvelous performance.

Photos from the concert are available in the photo gallery.

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  1. Congratulations Peter, Donna and John along with the faculty, staff and students who contributed to this beautiful performance! This was an example of true collaboration and creativity that required an outstanding element of commitment – not to mention bravery for those adults who were really stepping outside of their comfort zone and joining in the choir! It was impressive to see the excellent team effort and the community spirit in preparing for this performance. Well done everyone! – Denise Lamarche, Director of Academics

  2. Still breathless from the peformance. Still tearing up when I think of Robert Wyatt’s moving Call to Prayer. Still thankful that our son Lindon, is a student at this school. Thanks to Donna, Peter and John and all the students and community members who worked so very hard to present The Armed Man.
    Lara

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