British Composer Commemorates Kosovo War Dead
The Kosovo Philharmonic marked its 15th anniversary with the Pristina premiere of an anti-war mass by British composer Karl Jenkins, which is dedicated to victims of the 1998-99 conflict.
Jenkins’ mass ‘The Armed Man’ was performed for the first time in Pristina on Sunday as Kosovo’s Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir celebrated its anniversary in the capital.
“During 1998-99, I heard about events here and everyday in the news something was said something about war, conflict, genocide and the horror that was being experienced. This was my inspiration in a way because the tragedy touched me emotionally and pushed me to compose this piece,” Jenkins told BIRN.
Before the concert, an aide to President Atifete Jahjaga awarded the composer with a medal of special merit for his work on behalf of Kosovo’s people.
“I think that it was necessary for us to perform it, because it was written for us and for Kosovo, so this is a miracle that we managed to have the institutions to implement it,” Jahjaga said.
Conductor Baki Jashari said that the composition was first played as a pre-premiere in the town of Gjakova/Djakovica, a location chosen because it was one of the areas most affected by the war.
“After the concert, the audience was crying,” Jashari said.
‘The Armed Man’, which pictures the descent into war and its horrific aftermath, was composed in 1999 but was little-known in Kosovo until recently.
It is based on the Catholic mass but its text also contains poems from other religions and historical sources, including a Muslim prayer, excerpts from the Bible and the Indian poem Mahabharata, as well as verses from writers like Rudyard Kipling and Alfred Lord Tennyson.
Jenkins is a former jazz-rock musician with the celebrated avant-garde band Soft Machine and went on to have worldwide success as a composer.