Your cart

Shipping and discount codes are added at checkout.


L'homme armé: Variations for Wind Ensemble

Year:  2003   ·  Duration:  17m
Instrumentation:  3(picc), 3(c.a.), 4(E flat,, 3(contra bsn); 2 alto sax, tenor sax., bari. sax.; 4hn, 3tpt (E flat), 3tbn , euph., tba; timp., perc. 1: tamtam, glass wind chimes, finger cymbals, tamb., snare, tabor, tubular bells, crash cym., mba, tri., xyl., glock., sus. cym., perc. 2: snare, wooden wind chimes, sus. cym., 4 toms, jawbone, ride cym., 2 tri., guiro, anvil, tamb., perc. 3: tenor drum, bass drum, cow bell, whip, 4 wood blocks, metal wind chimes, tamb.

Year:  2003
Duration:  17m
Instrumentation  3(picc), 3(c.a.), 4(E flat,...

Films, Audio & Samples

Sample Score

Sample: Pages 1-8

See details ➔


To borrow items or hire parts please email SOUNZ directly at


L'homme, l'homme, l'homme armé,
L'homme armé doibt on doubter.

On a fait partout crier,
Que chascun se viegne armer
D'un haubregon de fer.

L'homme, l'homme, l'homme armé,
L'homme armé doibt on doubter.

(You should be afraid of the armed man! Everywhere people are saying that you should protect yourself with a coat of armour.)

Anon (early 15th century)

When I decided to write a work based on this ancient tune I had to balance three competing and apparently incompatible intentions.

Firstly, given the text of the song and the time at which I was writing the music - prior to and during the hostilities in Iraq - I wanted it to express something of my feelings towards the institution of war.

Secondly, since the melody of L'homme armé had been an inspiration to dozens of composers over more than five centuries since its composition, I intended to honour that tradition by alluding to some of the musical styles and employing some of the techniques of my predecessors.

Thirdly, some evidence points to the origin of this tune as a drinking song, so it was important that the music should have an element of enjoyment and exuberance.

As the music progressed I was surprised at the extent to which the first intention became dominated by the second and third. However, traces of the war theme can still be detected in the finished work. Examples are the siren-like opening and closing motifs, the rhythms of Te Rauparaha's war chant 'Ka mate, Ka ora' (if I live, if I die), a 'pleading' motif derived from a 'waiata tangi' (mourning song), and a brief march and funeral procession.

The 'homage to musical tradition' is seen in the form of the whole piece - that most ancient of musical structures, variations on a theme. Within this overall form canons of all possible types and descriptions abound. I quickly came to the conclusion that L'homme armé owed much of its popularity with composers to its great contrapuntal potential.

As for the 'enjoyment theme', elements of dance and popular song from several ages and places infiltrate much of the piece and power its momentum to a vigorous climax.

Gradually I came to see that my three intentions for this piece were not entirely incompatible. In my research for a programme note I discovered the following curious quotation with which Pierre de la Rue (1460-1518) concluded one of his two exquisite mass settings on L'homme armé:

Extrema gaudii luctus occupant (the extremes of joy can ward off sorrow).

Perhaps one antidote to the sorrows of war can be found in the art and joy of music.

Commissioned note

Commissioned by Timothy and Hillary Reynish in memory of their son William for the Guildhall Symphonic Wind Ensemble

Dedication note

In memory of William Reynish

Performance history

02 Jul 2003: Performed by Guildhall Symphonic Wind Ensemble conduced by Peter Gane; World Association of Symphonic Bands and Ensembles 11th Conference, Jonkoping, Sweden

17 Oct 2006: performed by the Slovene Armed Forces Band, directed by Milivoj Šurbek. Video of this performance can be downloaded "here":

10 Mar 2008: Performed by the Northamptonshire Orchestral Winds directed by Andrew Bassey at Wellingborough Castle, Northamptonshire, England, United Kingdom

17 Mar 2008: Performed by the Northamptonshire Orchestral Winds directed by Andrew Bassey at St Peters Church, Oundle, Northamptonshire, England, United Kingdom

27 Mar 2008: Performed as part of the New York International Band and Orchestra Festival 2008 at Carnegie Hall, New York, NY, United States of America

21 Feb 2010: Dartmouth College Concert

10 Apr 2010: Broadcast on "Smash Hit of 1453" BBC Radio 4

17 Nov 2010: Performed by the UGA Wind Ensemble with director Timothy Reynish at the Hodgson Hall at the University of Georgia, in USA

+ Read More