Howard Goodall is to conduct the BBC Singers in the European premiere of his new cantata, Unconditional Love, in a London concert later this week, one of a number of events that is also set to mark the centenary of the BBC.
The performance takes place on 13 February at Milton Court Concert Hall at the Barbican, a programme that also includes another Faber work - the much-loved Mass in G Minor by Ralph Vaughan Williams, in the 150th year of the composer's birth. Additionally, Goodall will conduct works by Judith Weir, Melissa Dunphy, Philip Herbert, Errollyn Wallen, Arnold Bax and Henry Walford Davies. The concert will be broadcast live at 4pm on BBC Radio 3 as part of BBC 100.
Unconditional Love: A Cantata of Gratitude and Remembrance lasts 36-minutes and is scored 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 - Sid Davis. The St Luke's Choir and soprano Grace Roman gave the world premiere under Goodall's baton as its first post-pandemic 'recovery' project, on 14 November 2021.
The seven-movement cantata 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 seven-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 complete score online here. The printed vocal score will be available on sale from April. And more about the background to the piece in this short, pre-premiere video featuring composer and commissioner, and this preview article from the Houston Chronicle.
Other choirs have moved swiftly to programme theis latest large-scale work from Goodall's pen, following the successes of Eternal Light: A Requiem; Invictus: A Passion, Every Purpose Under the Heaven (The King James Bible Oratorio) and the Christmas Cantata. Further dates of Unconditional Love are already confirmed for the UK and Ireland later this year.
Unconditional Love: A Cantata for Gratitude & Remembrance (2021)
solo soprano, SATB choir, piano, organ and brass ensemble of 7 players
(2 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, 1 tuba)
Duration: 36 minutes
Text: Howard Goodall; Maya Stein; Ella Wheeler Willcox; Michael Rosen; Katherine Garrison Chapin
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
World premiere: 14 November 2021, St Luke's United Methodist Church, Houston TX, USA: Grace Roman/Chancel Choir of St Luke's United Methodist Church/Howard Goodall