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Southwark mourns loss of Tavener

22 November 2013

by a staff reporter


SIR JOHN TAVENER was due to be present at Southwark Cathedral last Friday night for a première performance of his setting of three Shakespeare sonnets. His sudden death on Tuesday of last week meant that the cathedral marked his absence instead.

It did this by lighting of a candle in his memory at the start of the performance. The Dean of Southwark, the Very Revd Andrew Nunn, said: "Sir John wove a tapestry of music from the rich strands within the Christian traditions. His music takes us deeper into the mystery of God and gives us a glimpse of glory with musical sighs 'too deep for words'. His enrichment of the choral tradition in this country will provide a lasting legacy and a continuing pathway into the presence of God."

The first half of the concert, performed to a full house, featured choral music from Iceland and the UK by the South Iceland Chamber Choir and soloists. There was also the world première of an exciting new work by the young British composer Jack White, developed in collaboration with the South Iceland Chamber Choir, plus a number of UK premières by Icelandic composers including ex-Sigur Rós keyboardist Kjartan Sveinsson.

The second half was given over to Taverner's work, including The Lamb, Song for Athene, and his Three Shakespeare Sonnets. The programme note for these stated: "The Three Shakespeare Sonnets were one of the first works that I composed after serious illness in 2007. I wanted to pay tribute to my wife, Maryanna, who nursed me back to some degree of health, so I turned to the Shakespeare Sonnets, and was delighted to find that they brought forth music once again, after having been silent for so long."

The three sonnets were "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?", "Look in thy glass, and tell the face thou viewest", and, "No longer mourn for me when I am dead".

Angela Tilby


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