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Kathleen Raine
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HH The Dalai Lama Lecture 2004

Tribute to Sir John Tavener


Sir John Tavener gave the world beautiful and profound music in extraordinary abundance. His life and work were dedicated to composing sacred music that ‘…lead[s] us to the threshold of a true encounter with the living God.’

Temenos and the Temenos Academy – of which Sir John Tavener was a Fellow - were blessed in enjoying an association with him that extended over 25 years. In 1988 his ‘Ikon of Light’ was performed at the second Temenos Conference at Dartington Hall and the talk he gave there, ‘Sacred Music in the Twentieth Century’, was published in Temenos 9. He spoke at the Temenos Academy in 1994 on the theme ‘Imagination and the Composer: the Protecting Veil’. Two concerts of Sir John’s music given at St James’s Palace in the presence of the Patron of the Temenos Academy HRH The Prince of Wales followed: in 1999 Steven Isserlis, Patricia Rozario and the Vanbrugh Quartet performed a programme that included ‘The World’ (a setting of the poem by Kathleen Raine), ‘Akhmatova Songs’ and ‘Thrinos’; in 2005 Patricia Rozario and the Schubert Ensemble performed ‘Schuon Lieder’. Lastly – and unforgettably for those fortunate to be present – Sir John’s ‘Mahavakyas’, commissioned by the Temenos Academy, ‘Ahkmatova Songs’ and ‘Chant’, were performed by Ann de Renais (soprano) and Josephine Knight (cello) on 15 September 2013 at the Temenos Conference at St Hilda’s College, Oxford. The concert was given in Sir John’s presence and the photograph of him that appears here was taken on that day.

Despite his fame Sir John was the mildest, kindest and most charming man one could hope to meet. He has left a legacy of sublime music which will last for centuries.