John Tavener was an inspiration, a mentor and a friend for many years. Setting his profoundly moving 99 Words to music was a final privilege
December, 1997: a Christmas celebration in a darkened Westminster Cathedral packed with hundreds of hushed people holding candles. And Sir John Tavener’s sublime Hymn to the Mother of God, with its overlapping harmonic waves, washing over us from the Lady Chapel – this indelibly imprinted musical experience was formative to me as a listener and composer.
Most people will have heard John’s music outside the concert hall – most famously his Song for Athene at Diana, Princess of Wales’s funeral, or on film soundtracks or even on a 2002 ad for phone company Orange. His music is direct in its message: beautific simplicity, performed – by many of the world’s greatest musicians – with passionate intensity. Through his gradually building harmonies and structures, you can hear the sense of awe one imagines he drew from his [ . . . ]