The EMI Classics recording of Goodall’s Eternal Light: A Requiem has proved a favourite with UK listeners following its nationwide release on 22 September.
It entered the Classic FM Chart at No 19 and had risen to No 6 by the following week, and has remained in the Top 30 ever since. It was No 2 on HMV’s Choral Chart, whilst on iTunes it has remained in their classical album chart since its release.
'Pure quality floods from the stage as soon as the curtain rises on Eternal Light, company director Mark Baldwin's latest creation. Howard Goodall's requiem for the living is an understated, haunting distillation of medieval choral church music and Baldwin breathes the best of the human condition into this gorgeous framework of sound…
Rambert is touring Eternal Light; don't miss it, I guarantee you'll feel better for seeing it.'
The Sunday Express (Jeffery Taylor), 12 October 2008
‘The world premiere recording, delivered with great conviction and no little beauty, underlines the contemplative nature of the score: hell’s maw and divine wrath take second place here to expressions of untroubled eternity. That said, the Orff-like Revelation movements and Dies irae eloquently take stock of earthly tumult. A simple, unpretentious and ultimately moving work.’
Classic FM Magazine (Andrew Stewart), October 2008
‘… proves every bit as rewarding as we hoped: the beautiful, moving work of a fine and unique musical mind.’
Classic FM Magazine, Review Round-up (Andrew Mellor), October 2008
‘Not surprisingly in a work by Howard Goodall, there’s a wealth of highly singable melodic material. Listen to the Lead Kindly Light movement a couple of times and the tune will stick in your head for the rest of the day; there are plenty of other melodies which will threaten to do the same. In many cases the English words seem to be inextricably married to the music, the notes fitting the words like a glove.
The Latin words are often an apt fit, too, whether it’s the Requiem aeternam theme sung by the choir at the very start of the piece or the semi-chanted sections of the Factum est Silentium. The way that the English (generally sung by the soloists) and Latin (generally the choir) sections interlock (‘antiphonally’ is the word Goodall uses) and contrast is often quite tellingly managed. In that same first movement (the Requiem Aeternam) there’s a beautiful switch from the formality of the Latin choral section to the more ballad-like soprano solo of ‘Close now thine eyes’.
The CD of Eternal Light: A Requiem is released today on EMI, and it’s bound to sell well. Not only does it have the ten Requiem movements, it also has three other Goodall pieces, including the ever-popular The Lord is My Shepherd. Although there are a couple of slight rough ensemble edges, the orchestra (the dedicatees, London Musici) and choir (the boys and men of Christchurch Cathedral, Oxford) have the measure of the piece and the soloists – Natasha Marsh, Alfie Boe and Christopher Maltman – perform the song elements with feeling and accuracy.
If that’s not enough, it's about to start a tour with the Rambert Dance Company. The piece was commissioned by Mark Stephenson on behalf of London Musici, the Rambert’s associated orchestra, for its 20th anniversary celebrations, and over 30 performances are planned around the country in the coming months.
Last but not least, Eternal Light: A Requiem is highly singable and performable. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t fall into the ‘maybe challenging, but perfectly achievable’ category of choral society pieces. Expect to see it advertised on posters near you soon. Goodall may well have created another gentle choral society hit along the lines of Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace. In that case, many CD copies (as well as scores) will be bought as mementos and rehearsal sing-alongs.
There are plenty of ways in which Eternal Light: A Requiem could be a hit: in the theatre, in the local church, and on the CD shelves… because of its composer’s popularity, because of its singability, because of its immediacy and because of the visuality of a Requiem written to be danced, this may be the right Requiem for our time.’
Classicalmusictoday.co.uk (Martin Le Poidevin), 22 September 2008
Meanwhile, the Rambert Dance Company is touring the UK, with forthcoming dates in Edinburgh, Bath, London (Sadler’s Wells), Malvern, Plymouth, Snape, Llandudno, Truro, Mold, Newcastle, Inverness, Brighton, Birmingham and Leeds. See the Rambert Dance Company site for more details.
‘This was an evening of fine dancing and excellent choreography from a company at the top of its form… Mark Baldwin’s wonderful Eternal Light…what dance it was! Eternal Light is a long and beautiful series of dances for the whole company, expressing ideas about rapture, with the dancers contributing many feelings of their own.’
Oxford Times (David Bellan), 9 October 2008
‘The chief springboard for Baldwin’s Eternal Light is Howard Goodall’s choral score, an expansive, heartfelt rethinking of a traditional Requiem Mass that segues smoothly between fragments of Latin and contemporary poetry. Watching the world premiere at the Lowry in Salford as part of a Rambert triple bill, it soon became apparent that we could not be too literal about what is being memorialised here. Although the extravagance of Baldwin’s episodic, 45-minute opus is swathed in a palpable seriousness of purpose, for the most part his 19-strong cast embodies a kind of transcendental vision of humanity sometimes redolent of ecstatic and mystical hippie chic.
The fashion designer Michael Howells clothes the dancers in tight white outfits with flared legs and sleeves that ripple whenever limbs slice the air. This happens a lot, whether in frequently frantic ensemble passages loaded with gestures and steps or in smaller segments of varying impact. Alexander Whitley shines in a short, swift solo that exploits beautifully his flexibility and speed… Goodall’s music, sung by a different choir in each city on Rambert’s tour and accompanied by the London Musici, soothes and soars in equal measure.’
The Times (Donald Hutera), 29 September 2008
‘The evening opened with Mark Baldwin’s new work, Eternal Light, which was commissioned by Sadler’s Wells. This work is to a newly composed Requiem and I found it very beautiful and elegiac. I was drawn into it from the moment it started and I really didn’t want it to end. The dance started with a dancer in a costume that looked like a toucan and a little later one of the girls had a fantastical feathered head-dress. For me, it gave a South American feel, but that was solely due to the costumes. It is a work that uses most of the company's dancers. In parts the music reminded me of Carmina Burana with the way the choir’s voices are used. There was a beautiful, supple solo for Alex Whitley that was a highlight in this wonderful, gentle work… an evening of stunning dance that showed off the wonderful Rambert dancers to perfection.’
Ballet.co.uk (Janet McNulty), 3 October 2008