Stars was composed in 1970 for Paul Steinitz's London Bach Society. I used all the available forces at the concert in which it was first performed, which accounts for the somewhat unusual orchestration: 3 oboes (the 3rd doubling cor anglais), 1 bassoon, 3 trumpets, 2 trombones, timpani and strings. I wanted to set a specially written text, and I asked my friend Peter Holman (who has since become a distinguished authority on Baroque music) to provide one. We were both obsessed at that time with Stravinsky's cantata The King of the Stars and this was our initial model. The title of the poem was a deliberate allusion to Stravinsky's work, though it is quite different from the poem by Konstantin Balmont that Stravinsky set. Stravinsky's comment that he didn't really understand Balmont's poem but its words were good led me to ask for words that were good to sing as my first criterion. The choral writing is almost entirely harmonic and essentially simple, though the chords are often very dense: the only piece of contrapuntal writing occurs near the end. The writing for instruments on the other hand is much more linear and often fairly elaborate.
While I was making a new score for this performance I revised the piece, occasionally using less dissonant harmony; but my revisions are not extensive, and the overall style of the piece, which is quite different from what I write today, remains the same as it was almost 50 years ago.