Brightness Aloft is a string orchestra work built around an iridescent melody derived from the 17t century Mexican Villancico or Christmas Carol Xicochi Conetzintle. Written by the music director of the cathedral of the city of Puebla Gaspar Fernández (1566–1629), the text of the villancico combines Nahuatl (the language of the Aztecs) with ecclesiastical words of Greek and Hebrew origin. A lullaby, its title obviously refers to baby Jesus and can be translated as “Sleep, O my Child.”
The composition consists of ten unassuming paraphrases of the villancico’s lilting tune. Introduced at the outset by the solo violin, the charming melody journeys across the orchestra played by the cello, viola and second violins while appearing in subtly re-orchestrated disguises. The walking double bass line persistently in the background transitions the listener from one variation into the next while evoking the role played by the vihuela (or guitar) evident in Spanish Renaissance music.
Written during the early days of 2015, the music is a reaction to the exhilarating feelings of rebirth and renewal elicited by the gradual increase in daylight that inexorably follows the Winter Solstice. It was first performed on February 15, 2015 by the musicians featured on this recording.