In praise of… John Tavener | Editorial

Tribute to the composer who bridged the gap between the Beatles and the Anglican church

Composer John Tavener was a one-off: a white-suited, white-Rolls-Royce-driving man of extraordinary intensity and gentleness, beloved by everybody from the Beatles (who arranged for their label Apple to record his 1968 oratorio The Whale) to those many who found solace in the spacious meditative expanses of his The Protecting Veil. His mature musical voice had nothing to do with fashion and everything to do with deep and heartfelt spirituality. His music was made with deep rigour and care, and at its best found a fervent, rapturous beauty. It seems gauche to think of music as "healing", but Tavener's was such as to banish cynicism. A service of thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey this week, with performances of his music by some of his best interpreters, including oboist Nick Daniel and soprano Patricia Rozario, showed that his own work is indeed, in the words of Horace, a monument more enduring than bronze.

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