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Howard Goodall's Unconditional Love: A Cantata of Gratitude and Remembrance Premieres in November

Jun. 01, 2021

Faber Music has announced a major new choral work by Howard Goodall.

Unconditional Love: A Cantata of Gratitude and Remembrance is a thirty-six minute composition for solo soprano, SATB choir, piano, organ and brass septet. It's the result of a commission from long-time supporters of the composer, St. Luke's United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas, and its inspiring Director of Music, Sid Davis. The St. Luke's Choir aims to give the world premiere as its first post-pandemic 'recovery' project, in November this year, with the composer conducting. Plans are already in place for a UK premiere, to be announced shortly. Thereafter, it will be available to all other choirs.

The composer writes:

"On 10th November 2020, with most of the planet still grappling with the challenge and jeopardy of the Covid-19 pandemic, locked down at home in London, I received a message from Sid Davis, Director of Music and Fine Arts at St Luke’s United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas, wondering if I might consider a commission to address the new, strange and difficult world in which we all found ourselves. Perhaps it would be something to look forward to when live, collective performances were once again filling churches, concert halls, colleges and schools. An idea immediately came to me, which probably means it had been quietly fermenting in my subconscious for a while. Unconditional Love, as it became, is at its heart a work of gratitude, of memorial and of hope for a world rebuilt. It gives thanks to all those whose sacrifice and selflessness has been so powerful and so moving a feature of the Covid-19 crisis. It honours those who have died, as carers, as patients, as family members and dear friends. It seeks to offer comfort and solace to the grieving. It reflects on how much we took for granted about our relatively charmed existence before the pandemic and how much we learned, once more, about the simple needs and pleasures that became ordinary lifelines in the lockdown. For many people, the restriction on constant activity and travel, irksome though it undoubtedly was, allowed them a more considered view of their community and their immediate surroundings. For the young it has been particularly hard. They will also take a heavier than normal load in the rejuvenation and reconstruction that must follow. They represent our hope. They will not let us down. This is an especially personal piece for me, since I have written a fair amount of the text myself, and because of my relationship with the musical family of St Luke’s, who will give it its world premiere. It is not an explicitly religious work, though it belongs in one sense to a long tradition of cantatas and oratorios. Choirs of all kinds, in all places, will find, I hope, common cause with its themes and aspirations. There is no greater privilege as a composer than to find a space and a voice for communities to pause, for a moment, to mark – together – the perils of the journey and the passing of the storm."

Unconditional Love is cast in seven movements and sets texts by the composer himself, alongside Michael Rosen's moving tribute to the NHS 'These are the hands' (Rosen spent time in intensive care being treated for COVID), and poems by three American writers - Maya Stein's "When We Get Through This", Ella Wheeler Willcox's "Thanksgiving", and Katherine Garrison Chapin's "Bright Mariner," composed upon the death of her 7-year-old son.

The modest accompaniment of just nine instrumentalists is deliberately designed to bring the work within the budgets of most church and community choirs, schools, college and choral societies. 

View the vocal score here

Listen to Howard Goodall's Romance of the Angels (2012):

(Romance of the Angels/Howard Goodall/BBC Singers/Stephen Cleobury, conductor)

Howard Goodall
Unconditional Love: A Cantata for Gratitude and Remembrance (2021)
Texts by Howard Goodall; Maya Stein; Ella Wheeler Willcox; Michael Rosen; Katherine Garrison Chapin
for solo soprano, SATB choir, piano, organ and brass ensemble of seven players

Commissioned by: St. Luke’s Friends of Music for the Chancel Choir of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, Houston, Texas, Sid Davis, Director of Music and Fine Arts