Ecce Beatum Lucem
In 1996 Ralph Allwood asked me if I would compose a piece for the Eton Choral Courses. I wanted to write something about light, and he suggested this Latin text, which Alessandro Striggio had set four hundred years ago as a forty-part motet. The authorship is uncertain: it may be by Striggio himself. The inspiring words express a radiant, ecstatic moment of wonder: like a single, thrilling, timeless harmony. My response was to write an exploration of a single chord, the chord of C major: for the first thirty bars, this is all the organ plays, in shimmering arpeggios, while the voices move around it, finding out the spaces in between. Later, on the words ‘O mel et dulce nectar’ (‘O honey and sweet nectar’), half the choir take on the role of sustaining the C major chord; in the closing bars, it returns to the organ, while the voices float around it in a serene contemplation of paradise.