By Garret Leiva
TRAVERSE CITY — War and peace will be explored Sunday during a Mel Larimer Festival Choral Concert.
"The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace" will be performed in honor of veterans at First Congregational Church, 6105 Center Road. The 4 p.m. concert is free to all veterans.
The concert features 180 singers from the church's sanctuary choir, Northwestern Michigan College Chorale and Chamber and Traverse City West Senior High School Chorale. A 28-piece orchestra comprised of area musicians will play music written by Welsh composer Karl Jenkins.
Also featured are soloists Jennifer Warren, soprano, and Wilson Nicholas, tenor. Jeffrey Cobb, director of music programs at NMC, will conduct "The Armed Man," which was originally premiered in 2000 at The Royal Albert Hall in London in celebration of the millennium.
"(The Armed Man) is a moving message of unity and hope for peace," said Cobb, who will lead a diverse group of musicians ranging from 18 to 80 years old.
First Congregational Church Music Minister Sally Lewis described "The Armed Man" as a "remarkable work" performed 1,000 times since its debut in 2000.
"The Armed Man" is based on the Catholic Mass and incorporates text from several historical sources. The piece features words written by Rudyard Kipling, Alfred Lord Tennyson and Sankichi Toge, who wrote a firsthand poem on the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima.
A full-length video, "The Armed Man Film," will be shown in conjunction with the live musical performance. The video was created by filmmaker and director Hefin Owen.
"The video contains striking images that show the ravages of war, but also the peace that follows when people work together," said Cobb, who acknowledged the visual component creates a challenge since certain sections are synchronized to live music.
In honor of Veterans Day, members of Veterans of Foreign Wars Cherryland Post 2780 will present a color guard prior to the concert. Images of 50 veterans will also be shown before the performance. The veterans, mostly local or relatives of area residents, span from the Civil War to those currently serving in the military.
The Dick Johnson Concert Series was started by church music director Mel Larimer in 1998. It was renamed in Larimer's honor after he passed away in 2008. The next concert is scheduled for April 2013, featuring German organist Felix Hell, who made his debut in northern Michigan at First Congregational Church 10 years ago at age 16.
Tickets for "The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace" are $15 adults, $5 students and $40 for families. The concert is free for area veterans. Tickets are available in advance or the day of the concert at the church. For more information, call 947-6698.