“In 2008, James Runcie and I won a commission to write a new work for St Peter and St Paul Parish Church in Wantage, Oxfordshire,and the Thecla story was mooted as a possible subject for the piece. I was intrigued by this: the story of Thecla presents a vivid
picture of the time, but it has a lot to teach us about the time we live in as well. James and I agreed to use the story for the new piece. I knew that James had the right combination of knowledge, moral judgement and creativity to take the story of Thecla, as documented in the Apocrypha, and combine it with some of Paul’s writings from the Bible. This he has done magnificently, lending the story great credibility (to my mind it reads as convincingly as anything in the Bible) while shining a new light on some of the writings of Paul that are much better known.
When James sent me the finished libretto, he suggested several existing songs and spirituals as a kind of punctuation to the drama of the piece. I liked this idea but wanted the music to be all of one piece. On looking closer at the spirituals he had chosen, I realised I didn’t know the music of any of them, so I wrote my own using the existing words. Maybe that’s a bit cheeky, but in the end I’m glad I did; if the piece as a whole works then that’s good. If not, then the fault is all mine own.
The story of Thecla is about faith in both good and bad ways. Thecla’s faith gives her the courage to upset the established order and pursue what she thinks is the right spiritual path in the company of Paul. Most everybody else in the piece puts their faith in the way
things have always been done: a patriarchal system, which Thecla defies. Their faith leads them to whip themselves up into a frenzy and sentence her to a cruel and shocking death, not once, but twice.” from the programme notes