'…eventually rising to a climax like a peal of bells before a keening cello solo brought the piece to an end that was finally, unequivocally mournful.' Evening Standard
Howard Goodall's Never To Forget for chorus and ensemble received its long-awaited first public performance on 1 July when Simon Halsey conducted the London Symphony Chorus and City of London Sinfonia in Hawksmoor's Christ Church, Spitalfields, the opening event of London's Spitalfields Festival.
Commissioned by the LSC, Never To Forget pays tribute to UK health and careworkers who have died from Covid-19. The text of the new choral work consists entirely of their names. The virtual premiere launched in July 2020, the text for this version comprised the first 122 names of those to have died. This updated, live version features the 285 names of those health and care workers who have died from Covid-19.
The London Symphony Chorus commissioned Goodall (its patron) in April 2020 to create a new work which would be a visual and acoustic memorial to those health and care workers who have died as a result of Covid-19. The names of these workers were taken by the composer from Nursing Notes, a nursing news website ‘run by nurses for nurses’ and it was recorded virtually during lockdown. One hundred singers from the chorus performed in the recording of the initial 8-minute version, alongside members of the London Symphony Orchestra and the composer himself.
The pandemic has affected us all and there are frontline health and care workers within the chorus. The chorus wanted to acknowledge and pay tribute to those who have lost their lives caring for others and hope to bring some comfort to the bereaved, by letting them know their loved ones have not been forgotten.
The original online premiere can be seen below.
The work is scored for SATB chorus, with a chamber ensemble of 10 musicians:
hrn - harp - pno - chamber org - 2 vln.vla.2 vlc.db (one player to a part)
We're delighted to that the printed vocal score of the final 15-minute version is now on sale. The full score and parts are available for hire. View the complete score here.
'Howard Goodall’s Never to Forget is a 15-minute piece for chorus (London Symphony Chorus, masked) and small orchestra (City of London Sinfonia), both conducted by Simon Halsey. Its text consists solely of the names of health and care workers who have died during the pandemic. In a brief introduction, the composer said that his first version included 122 names; here, there were 285. We can only hope that no more will be added.Projected onto a screen behind the performers, the names underlined the debt we owe to people whose collective heritage spans every continent, their multiple syllables engendering music that, if it never quite joyous, was largely celebratory. Prominent roles for harp and a soaring cello provided a timbral counterpoint to each other, and to the choir, which, apart from four soloists positioned in front of the orchestra, came to us from galleries above the nave. Goodall’s lines, never fully melodic but always mobile, had a sing-song quality, eventually rising to a climax like a peal of bells before a keening cello solo brought the piece to an end that was finally, unequivocally mournful.'Evening Standard (Nick Kimberley), 2 July 2021
'It is a humble and moving response to the tragic loss of life and the performance - a return to live singing by the LSC - had sincerity and sensitivity…Goodall foregrounds the names and largely keeps the music out of the way. The names are sung by the choir with simple melodic outlines, sometimes in antiphony, sometimes in chordal textures, sometimes by solo singers, with an accompaniment from a small chamber ensemble. The music is undemonstrative, in Goodall's warm cathedrally style, with some effective solo writing for the cello. But it doesn't draw attention to itself, content to be a vessel for the transmission of the names.The 70 masked singers were arrayed around the gallery, with conductor Simon Halsey having to work in 360 degrees, with the names projected on a screen. Care had clearly been taken to pronounce the names correctly and it felt like a sincere and committed tribute to the dead. As Goodall said in a powerful introductory speech, "each of these names we cherish and honour - we sing these names with love and gratitude". Although performed in a church, Never To Forget felt like an appropriately secular tribute to a group of people clearly hugely varied in cultural and national origin, and was in that sense a model of how such a thing can be done.'ArtsDesk (Bernard Hughes) 2 July 2021'… conveyed its good intentions with fine craftsmanship and a sweet lyricism. It’s a memorial to the health and care workers who died in the pandemic, but instead of their names being etched in stone they are immortalised by being sung, one after another, by a chorus and soloists with a gentle instrumental backing… Goodall evoked grief without ever slipping into sentimentality.'The Times (Richard Morrison), 2 July 2021