Song without Borders: ‘Adiemus’ by Karl Jenkins

Sometimes, what we need is a good piece of music to inspire us, move us, or simply to entertain us. Never mind if it is a song without words, or even one without meaning. Adiemus, written by Karl Jenkins (b. 1944), is such a song. The versatile Welsh composer shot to fame with The Armed Man (subtitled Mass for Peace) when it premiered at a Classic FM Live Concert in 2000 at London’s Royal Albert Hall. The audience was enthralled with Jenkin’s sweeping and ethereal brand of modern classical music that has the effect of transporting one into another place. Proving that his music knows no bounds, Adiemus, composed five years earlier, has a world music vibe about it, owing to the song’s mix of African-tribal and Celtic-style melodies. Originally composed as a piece of advertising music for Delta Airlines, it was developed further by Jenkins into a full-blown classical work for sopranos and orchestra.

The title of the song has no meaning (Jenkins made up the word), perhaps to make it sound Latin. The main idea was to create a modern song using classical forms such as rondo and ternary. The song’s lyrics also have no meaning, and the vocals (two sopranos) are simply used as another instrument to make music and not to convey any message. First released on the 1995 album, titled Adiemus: Songs of Sanctuary, the song has now become an established repertoire of music played regularly on Classic FM.

Here’s Adiemus, performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra Choir.

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