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Tavener Remembered

Much gratitude is due to Cambridge Music Festival for a beautiful commemoration of John Tavener, exactly ten years after his death. I can remember exactly what I was doing when I heard that news: writing music, a Tavener-influenced Marian Antiphon (Ave Regina Caelorum) which was included in this concert, performed by a very full strength 24-voice BBC Singers under Daniel Hyde. The evening also included music by Lennox Berkeley, his RAM teacher; John Rutter, his contemporary and friend at Highgate School, and Messiaen, an inspiration and model. I felt it a great honour to be included in this lovely event in King's Chapel.

The highlights of the programme of course were the Tavener pieces. Sitting at the front, I was on the edge of my seat watching and listening to Natalie Clein in the cello parts of Thrinos and Svyati. It has to be said, the music comes forth with such strong simplicity, but it's often extremely difficult to perform. (Natalie of course didn't betray a single smidgeon of difficulty while negotiating those continuous, super-high triple stops.) Likewise, few choirs are able to pounce on those big, wide Tavener chords with the elan of the BBC Singers.

Extremely touching also was an interval talk I joined in with John Rutter and Ian Skelly. John spoke about their school music teacher, who encouraged composition widely and saw every composition "as a religious act". And it was thanks to my own schoolteacher, that I was introduced to Tavener, and was able to show him my own teenage compositions. We talk all the time about the positive influence of music in school, but here, without intending to, we were embodying that, with our enthusiastic and vivid recollections stretching back over sixty years or more. BBC Radio 3 will be broadcasting this concert and interval talk on 21 November.





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