The World on Fire (2015)

February 3rd, 2020

www.phillipcooke.comThe World on Fire (2015)

A setting of a text by Jackie Stedall



Commissioned by the Choir of The Queen’s College, Oxford for their recording A New Heaven.

fp. 28 November 2015; The Queen’s College Choir, Owen Rees, The Queen’s College, Oxford, UK

US.p. 11 November 2017; Te Deum Chamber Choir, Matthew Christopher Shepherd, St Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Kansas City, USA

Dutch.p. 19 April 2020; Capella Vocale, Monique Schendelaar, Lokhorstkerk, Leiden, Netherlands

The World on Fire (2015) (pdf)

A recording of this work is available on Signum Records (SIGCD475) and can be bought here.


The World on Fire is a setting of two diary fragments from Jackie Stedall, former University Lecturer in the History of Mathematics and fellow of The Queen’s College at Oxford University. I was commissioned to set her words for the Choir of Queen’s in her memory for a forthcoming CD project. The short fragments are bucolic and pastoral and full of the wonderment and spiritual power of nature – the title of the work comes from the second diary fragment: ‘The world on fire, not the fire of destruction, but of energy, creation, love. Burning in every moment.’

My setting is very simple, entirely homophonic and aims to enhance Jackie’s thoughts at being overwhelmed by the beauty and vivacity of the natural world. The work is in two sections (corresponding to the two diary fragments): a reflective opening section in A minor in which the sopranos have the melody above a repeating choral accompaniment and a more vivid, luminous section in C# minor which tries to capture some of the inherent power of the ‘energy, creation and love’.

It was a great pleasure and honour to set these beautiful words – I was lucky enough to be a junior fellow at Queen’s at the same time as Jackie and she was always a kind and thoughtful person to me, and will no doubt be hugely missed by all her worked with her.


Comments are closed.