Hobart Quaker Clive Sansom wrote a set of 65 poems with connecting prose on the subject of Francis of Assisi, published posthumously in 1981. Friend Brian Paine, former ABC radio producer, introduced him to the work of Clive Sansom. Ralph used eleven of these poems in the cantata. He worked on this during 2013.
It was part of the PhD exegesis, If Music and Sweet Poetry Agree published by the University of Tasmania and available online.
It is written for soprano, tenor and baritone soloists, choir, flute/piccolo/alto flute, oboe/cor anglais, string quintet (or string orchestra) with an elaborate percussion part. The first performance was on 9th November 2013 with Gary Wain as musical director. It lasts for 48 minutes.
In performance, it needs no particular kind of venue. Although the central figure is described as a saint, it is not intended as an ecclesiastical piece. Nor is it a personal statement. It tells a story and there is a dramatic element.
Umbria is a small, sparsely populated Italian region near Rome. Giovanni di Pietro di Bernadone, (1181–1226) was born and spent much of his life in Assisi, Umbria, a little city alive with bells and birds. His father Pietro nicknamed the boy Francesco (‘Frenchman’—his mother was a French aristocrat). St Clare (1194–1253, born Chiara Offreduccio) was a friend and follower of St Francis and, as Sister Clare, co-founder with him of what became the Order of St Clare. Francis died in Assisi, perhaps from a form of leprosy, as witness his blindness. He was much loved; Dante later described him as a ‘Second Sun’.