Then I heard the singing
was the result of a commission from Rupert Gough and The Choir of Royal Holloway to set a text by St Bridget of Sweden for the College’s annual carol service. St Bridget (Birgitta Birgersdotter) was born in the fourteenth century to an aristocratic family related to the kings of Sweden, was well travelled and later settled in Rome. Her hundreds of visions mostly concerned reform of the Church, and in many cases Christ and/or Mary gave Birgitta messages to be given to others. Shortly before her death, she described a vision which included a very visual description of the birth of Jesus. The image of the infant Jesus himself emitting light was to influence the way the Nativity was depicted in the Renaissance and Baroque era, painters frequently making this holy light the predominant source of illumination. Hansson takes an unhurried approach to this passage from St Bridget’s Revelations, pausing to reflect on key words using chords resonating with perfect fourths. Halfway through the piece the music changes key for the pivotal moment: ‘suddenly in a moment she gave birth’. From this moment the focus is on ‘light and splendour’ but these same shimmering chords return and hang in the air to bathe the end of the piece in ‘sweetness and beauty’.
from notes by Rupert Gough © 2012