Tears with Tavener

John Tavener

John Tavener

Tonight some music moved me to tears. I was listening to composer John Tavener’s piece The Protecting Veil, written for cello and strings and performed with such beauty and depth by cellist Steven Isserlis and the London Symphony Orchestra.

Tavener once said . “As time goes on the music that I write teaches me.” For a composer whose wellspring of creativity is his belief in the divine this is an important revelation. He went on to say that “art is not limited if one allows the Holy Spirit to enter, and the only way to allow it to enter is by way of dissolution, and by that I mean total dissolution in the literal sense, at the point of nothingness, when one is absolutely nothing – can do absolutely nothing, only then and very gently can the Holy Spirit come in and work within you.”

Of course, a great deal has developed in Tavener’s thinking with his developing  interest in Eastern philosophy and spirituality which has widened to embrace not only his Orthodox faith, but also other Eastern cultures including Indian and Iranian Sufi music, as well as some more unexpected and surprising sources of inspiration. 

Tavener has been described as the favourite composer of Prince Charles, and you can see why the heir to the throne who sees himself as “defender of faith” is drawn to the cultural eclecticism of Tavener. For me, I can feel the rhythm of God in his music as it challenges, inspires and moves us beyond description.


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