Catalogue Number: COR16165; Release Date: 31 August 2018

Christ Church Cathedral Choir/Stephen Darlington/Soloists from The Sixteen/The Lanyer Ensemble

On 31 August 2018 The Sixteen’s record label, CORO Connections, releases the premiere recording of Howard Goodall’s new work, Invictus: A Passion, performed by the Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, with The Lanyer Ensemble and soloists Kirsty Hopkins and Mark Dobell from The Sixteen, conducted by Stephen Darlington.

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. It was here that the piece received its world premiere on 25 March 2018 (Palm Sunday), conducted by the composer. The European premiere, performed by the Choir of Christ Church Cathedral Oxford, was conducted by Stephen Darlington with soloists from The Sixteen and The Lanyer Ensemble at St John’s Smith Square on 25 May 2018, with Andrew Benson Wilson commenting “The performance itself was excellent, with Stephen Darlington and the choir of Oxford’s Christ Church Cathedral absorbing themselves into a musical idiom that, perhaps surprisingly, they have shown a past affinity with. Soloists Mark Dobell and Kirsty Hopkins were outstanding.” The Observer also stated, “The soloists are uniformly excellent, and the string playing as crisp and alert as the fresh young voices of the Christ Church trebles.”

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.

Invictus: A Passion is published by Faber Music. The vocal score (0-571-53653-0) is available now.

 

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