John Rutter's personal ties to Clare College, Cambridge, run deep. His first music studies were at this college as an undergraduate, and after teaching at the University of Southampton he returned to Clare College as director of music in 1975. Though he left four years later to pursue a full-time career in composition, part of Rutter's heart seems to have remained with his college. His succesor, Tim Brown, was preparing to take the Clare College Choir on its first tour of the United States almost 10 years later, and Rutter composed a valedictory musical blessing for it to take on tour. His setting of the Anglican liturgical blessing "Go forth into the world in peace" traveled with the choir to America, serving as his personal and musical benediction upon its travels out "into the world," and it has since been sung as a choral blessing throughout the English-speaking church world.
Rutter's Go forth into the world in peace offers a compendium of the composer's favorite musical devices. After a brief instrumental (or organ) introduction, the piece opens with the women's voices singing in unison a completely classic Rutter melody, closing on the strong melodic fifth on the word peace. The benediction is repeated by the men's voices and then the complete choir breaking into rich harmonies. The men's voices contrast the opening with a new but still strong melody, "Hold fast to that which is good," followed by a poignant shift to minor mode as the text asks the listener to "strengthen the faint-hearted" (the music briefly echoes his setting of The Lord is my Shepherd, from Requiem). Following exhortations to "support the weak" and "honor all people," the text moves the climactic "love and serve the Lord," using a tremendous second-inversion tonic chord much as Rutter does at the climax of his A Gaelic Blessing. Rutter's text concludes with "the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit," the music for which he continues to adorn with the same rising melodic thirds that have so graced the rest of the piece; he concludes with another characteristically memorable melodic phase, as the "Amen" resonates throughout the voices of the choir that Rutter loved and that he sent on its international way with this powerful benediction.