On 31st August the premiere recording of Howard Goodall’s Invictus: A Passion was released on The Sixteen’s record label, CORO Connections, performed by the Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, with the Lanyer Ensemble and soloists from The Sixteen, conducted by Stephen Darlington.
A track from the album was played on Classic FM on John Suchet’s show on Friday 31st August – after the broadcast you can listen again via the Classic FM website.
The work is a contemporary reflection on the themes of the traditional Christian Passion story with particular attention to the role and perspective of women. Poems by various authors are interwoven with the 1611 verse narrative of the biblical Passion by Æmelia Lanyer née Bassano, one of the first books published in the English language by a female poet. Interspersing extracts of her long-form poem are texts from various periods of historic turmoil, written or inspired by women which eloquently portray humility in the face of tyranny. These texts include Gethsemane by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, Mary Magdalene and the Other Mary by Christina Georgina Rossetti and Slave Auction by Ellen Watkins Harper.
The themes that run through the work – persecution of the innocent, malevolent authority exerting itself against ideas that threaten and challenge, the redemptive power of love, and the resilience of the human spirit – hold profound universal resonance.
Goodall said: “In writing a setting of the Passion story, in the 21st century, I felt it important to look at its ideas, its format and its message afresh…to reflect musically on what this story has to tell us, now.”
The 55-minute, nine-movement work is scored for soprano solo, tenor solo, SATB choir and an unusually configured chamber orchestra of double (antiphonal) string quartet, bass, piano, horns and soprano saxophone. Invictus: A Passion was 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.
Invictus: A Passion is the second collaboration between CORO Connections and Christ Church Cathedral Choir. The relationship began in 2016 with the acclaimed release of Francesco Durante’s Requiem (COR16147) performed by Christ Church Cathedral Choir, Oxford Baroque, Soloists from The Sixteen and conducted by Stephen Darlington.