Karl Jenkins: Adiemus

Context

Karl Jenkins composed his “new age” song Adiemus as part of the Adiemus project, which was officially released on Adiemus: Songs of Sanctuary in 1995. Jenkins collaborated with vocalists Miriam Stockley and Mary Carewe for the original recording. The work also features a group of vocalists plus the London Philharmonic Orchestra, who performed in the premiere. Adiemus also premiered in a Delta Air Lines TV advert.

 

The Music

The primary aim of the song was to create a modern-sounding new age song that leaned on classical forms, but that also incorporated Celtic and African influences. The vocals are at the forefront of the song, however the words have absolutely no meaning. Most are variations of the word ‘Adiemus’. Set in D minor, the song also uses modal harmony to create the Celtic feel in the middle interlude. 

Opening with the vocalists, the song slowly builds, accompanied by percussion. The voices begin to unite and merge into a unified voice as others decorate the melody. The Celtic flute solo in the middle brings a new kind of sound to the piece. Mimicking the vocal melody, the flute solo is then interrupted by the voices as they sing in glorious unison. 

Sustained chords from the orchestra creates tension and also offers a solid base for the voices and percussion to flourish above. As the united front begins to fade away, Jenkins’ Adiemus will stay in your head for days to come. 

 

Happy Reading!

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