Britten and Goodall, next Sunday (Nov. 22nd) at the Guildhall, Plymouth.
For our next concert, we’re rehearsing Britten’s St.Nicholas and Goodall’s Eternal Light, and much enjoying both of these lovely works. Should be well worthwhile for music lovers within evening-out distance of Plymouth.
The Goodall is a new work first performed in 2008, when the Rambert Dance Company used it as the score for a new ballet. They toured with their own small orchestra, but invited local choirs to join them in each tour venue. A subset of the Plymouth Philharmonic, including me, sang with them in Plymouth and hugely enjoyed it. This is a modern work that is neither the challenging avant-garde of much of the 20th century, nor the vacuous junk commonly pushed by the so-called “music business” under a “classical” label just because it involves traditional instruments.
It can perhaps best be described as a non-traditional requiem. Like the Brahms, it is a consolation for the living more than a rite for the dead. Like the Britten, it blends the Latin requiem with English poems, though the similarity ends there. It’s a rather lighter work than either of those, but it’s also new and genuinely different. And if it hasn’t gone stale with me after a full week of performances and a year, it must be good!
Britten needs no introduction, but St.Nicholas may be less familiar: it was new to me when we started rehearsing. It’s a cantata (for want of a better description) that puts together a bit of history and a bunch of legends – some dramatised, some just sung – into a life of St Nicholas. The title role – the only Principal – was written for Peter Pears, and both adult and youth choruses take different semi-dramatic roles. Quite strikingly in terms of story (given that he is the saint and the hero) Nicholas himself comes across as a rather obnoxious prig. But that doesn’t detract from music, which is vintage Britten: glorious, exciting, always fresh.
 Another modern English comparison is Rutter, who I respect as a composer of light music that is real music and not trivia. I’ve enjoyed singing his requiem and magnificat (the latter more than once), but I think the Goodall has more power than those to sustain my interest.