On 17 April leading US choir Conspirare (conducted by its founder and artistic director, Craig Hella Johnson) performed Howard Goodall’s Eternal Light: A Requiem (2008) at the Bates Recital Hall, Austin, Texas – along with a new choir and organ arrangement of ‘Bright Mariner’ from Unconditional Love). The 40-minute Eternal Light is scored for soprano, tenor and/or baritone soloists, SATB chorus, a pair of keyboards, optional harp, and strings.

Though its ten movements follow the traditional patter of the Requiem mass setting, Goodall’s strips back the traditional Latin text to its essence and interleaves it with English poetry from across the last five hundred years, drawing on texts by Francis Quarles, Ann Thorp, John Henry Newman, Mary Elizabeth Frye, John McCrae, and Phineas Fletcher.

Commissioned and conceived as an ambitious choral-orchestral-dance work to celebrate the 20th anniversary of London Musici, the work has since been performed over 700 times internationally by groups ranging from amateur and community choirs to celebrated professional choral ensembles such as Conspirare, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Chorus (conducted by Simon Halsey), and Royal Northern Sinfonia and Chorus. Goodall himself has conducted the work on numerous occasions since 2013.

Eternal Light premiered at the Lowry in 2008 with Rambert Dance Company in a production choreographed by Mark Baldwin, with London Musici, conductor Paul Hoskins, and the Manchester University Chamber Choir Ad Solem; the world premiere recording featured Natasha Marsh, Alfie Boe and Christopher Maltman as soloists, joined by the Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, and London Musici conducted by Stephen Darlington.

On 23 March Goodall conducted the premiere of another new arrangement of Bright Mariner from his 2021 cantata Unconditional Love, performed at the St Mary’s Church, Barnes, London, performed by Barnes Festival Choir and Orchestra. Written for the Barnes Music Festival, this new chamber orchestra version is scored for single woodwinds, a pair of horns, trumpet, trombone, strings and piano, whose rippling motion opens the reflective 7-minute aria for soprano, supported by chorus.

The text by American poet and playwright Katherine Garrison Chapin (1890-1977) is a tender account of coming to terms with a sudden loss, whose initial anguish and confusion resolves into acceptance; the soprano’s line is shadowed and echoes by figures in woodwinds and strings, as the chorus join to offer the soloist solace.