'… a memorial of radiant, dignified pathos, which is moving in its utter simplicity.' The Telegraph (Ivan Hewett)
Never to Forget is a virtual, visual and acoustic memorial project dedicated to UK health and care workers who have died in the Covid-19 pandemic.
Composed by Howard Goodall and commissioned by the London Symphony Chorus, it pays tribute to 122 health and care workers who were among the first to have died from Covid-19. The text of this new work consists entirely of their names, and when complete, Never to Forget will be extended to include all names of those health and care workers who have died by the time of its first live performance. Currently this stands at over 300 names.
To coincide with the anniversary of the founding of the National Health Service, the premiere performance of Never to Forget took place online on Sunday 5 July at 1000 BST. You can see the performance here and view the score here. The recording was also broadcast on BBC Radio 3 that same day.
'This tribute to the NHS workers who have lost their lives as a result of the pandemic is that rare thing - a successful musical memorial…(Goodall's) gift for music of remembrance is beautifully demonstrated… to make sure we remembered every one he had the brilliant idea of using all the names as the text of his piece. We simply hear those names, gently chanted without comment, mostly by a solo voice. The singer’s face appears on the screen just long enough to sing the name before giving way to another, as if for a moment singer and individual victim are in communion.The piece’s expressive effect owes much to its delicately coloured instrumental accompaniment… Meditative harmonies on a chamber organ bring a specifically Christian sense of ritual solemnity but the handbells, harp and piano soften that feeling, and the plaintive sound of the dilruba ( a bowed Indian stringed instrument) adds a flavour of something far beyond these shores. This is as it should be, because when the singers start to appear on the video chanting the names, it’s evident the people named hail from every corner of the globe.The piece seems at first to unfold in a circular manner, the same harmonies and mournful chanting phrases returning again and again. But sometimes a name will stand out as if a spotlight has fallen randomly on a single face, and Goodall shrewdly counteracts the impression of gentle stasis with more forceful episodes. Here the voices come together, the video image fills with singing heads, and the harmonies develop heft and direction before subsiding once more to meditative gentleness. At the end the music fades to a simple major chord. It sets the seal on a memorial of radiant, dignified pathos, which is moving in its utter simplicity.'The Telegraph (Ivan Hewett), 5 July 2020
In April, the London Symphony Chorus commissioned its patron, composer Howard Goodall, 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, 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 London Symphony Chorus will perform the completed piece live and in full, when it is safe to do so and very much hope some of the families and colleagues affected will be able to attend this performance. The video is a non-commercial recording funded by the chorus.
“Like so many creative artists I have been wanting to respond to the pandemic crisis in a way that would seem appropriate and sensitive to those who have been at the forefront of the struggle and that would demonstrate to them our collective solidarity and gratitude. The dedication and sacrifice of key health and care workers has been truly humbling. A choral work, even one that could initially be compiled from singers' own homes, seemed fitting. Its text, entirely comprising the names of those nurses, doctors, carers, porters, cleaners, paramedics, ambulance drivers who leave behind mourning families, friends, communities. Unlike a stone memorial, though, this work will continue to grow and honour its fallen heroes, so the initial virtual recording is made up of the first 122 health and care workers who had died by 25 April of this year. By the same time in 2021, the piece will be expanded, and a version performed live that has all the names subsequently, tragically, added.”
Simon Halsey CBE, choral director, London Symphony Chorus:
“We felt that we must do something to acknowledge the extraordinary contribution made by health and care workers at a time of international crisis and this piece offers us a chance to get involved in a meaningful project: one that we hope will enable us, as a music community, to give back something to those affected by the crisis.”
Dr Owen Hanmer, chairman, London Symphony Chorus:
“It is a tribute to those UK health and care workers who have died from Covid-19. I am proud to have worked for the NHS, and am grateful to the chorus for their commitment to this project, and for ensuring that music remains a part of our existence in these difficult times.”
To listen to a news feature on Never to Forget on the Radio 4 Today programme listen here (starts at 1:43:13):
Watch here for BBC News video piece on Never to Forget.
And on 2 July Howard Goodall was a guest on BBC Radio 3's "In Tune" talking about the piece here (from 1:14:08 onwards).