In July 1987 Burgon completed his longest work for choir since The Fire of Heaven
fourteen years earlier. The song of the creatures
was commissioned for the Choir of St Matthew’s Church, Northampton, begetters of a remarkable series of miniature choral masterpieces by, among others, Britten, Berkeley, Kenneth Leighton, Edmund Rubbra and Gerald Finzi. Its form frames and articulates the canticle attributed to St Francis of Assisi, supposedly written by him while he ‘lay sick at Saint Damiano’. The saint’s song is delivered from the perspective of a blind man, unable to see the sun but as sure of its presence as he is of the splendour of God’s creation. Burgon’s litany of praises eventually settles on an instantly memorable hymn-like tune, itself prefaced by a majestic organ outburst and quietly revealed by a succession of unison trebles and tenors. An animated version of the same melody for a duet of solo treble and tenor gives way to a heartfelt choral benediction for those who ‘find themselves in thy most holy will’ and a return to the unison writing of the work’s opening.
from notes by Andrew Stewart © 2006