John Tavener is Britain’s foremost classical composer, renowned for his both profoundly religious and inspirational secular works. Among the former is 1988’s The Protecting Veil, the CD recording of which sold in quantities usually reserved for arena-filling popular music acts. Among the latter is ‘Song For Athene’, written after the tragic accidental death of a family friend and played at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997. John Tavener was knighted by The Queen in 2000 for his services to music.
John Tavener was born in 1944 and was educated at Highgate School in North London and at the Royal Academy of Music. His first major composition, the iconoclastic and ground-breaking The Whale, was premiered at the Proms in 1969 and was recorded by Apple Records the following year. Both John Lennon and Ringo Starr took an interest in John Tavener’s music, and Ringo appears as one of the ‘speakers’, shouting through a megaphone, on The Whale. Apple released the extraordinary Celtic Requiem, a piece for orchestra and children’s choir, in 1971. Both recordings were performed by the London Sinfonietta, an orchestra dedicated to performing new, contemporary compositions, that was founded by John’s school friend Nicholas Snowman.