Life Events

Born 28th January 1944, Wembley Park, London, first child of Muriel and Kenneth Tavener.

Attended St Christophers pre-prep, and Arnold House prep school, before going on as a music scholar to both Highgate School for Boys and to the Royal Academy of Music.

Met his ‘adopted’ Godmother Rhoda Birley in 1956, at a performance of The Magic Flute at Glyndebourne.

Heard Stravinsky’s Canticum Sacrum on the radio in 1956, which made a lasting impression.

Became organist at St John’s, Kensington in 1959, conducting major works, including his own, with a relatively inexperienced but dedicated choir. Continued as organist into the 1970s.

On Hymns

I have always loved hymns, since I was a 6 year old, playing them on my grandfather’s pipe organ.  I had a very inspiring music master at Highgate who played hymns wonderfully slowly and interpreted them like huge tone poems.  Today, people play hymns far too clinically.  The best ones are nobel and majestic, with inspired tunes and text, like When I Survey the Wondrous CrossEternal Father Strong to SaveLove Divine and Lead Kindly Light.

Performed his own piano concerto with Harry Blech and the Academy Chamber Orchestra, and conducted his own opera, The Cappemakers.  Met Stravinsky.

The Whale was performed at the inaugural concert of the London Sinfonietta, founded by Nicholas Snowman, at the QEH.

In Alium won the audience over at The Proms in a competition, played by the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

On Cars

Ever since I was aged three until I became very ill over three years ago I have had what some consider a paradoxical interest in cars.   When I was a child my father used to bring home pamphlets of cars he thought of buying.   He used to lay them out on the floor and I as a toddler used to stamp on them ritually chanting  “Big car, little car, big car, little car”.

My own first car was a wonderful Armstong Siddeley Sapphire with a semi-automatic pre-selector gearbox which I bought for £100, aged 23.   Since then I have owned a number of old Bentleys, the first of which had no passenger seat so my passengers had to either sit in the back or risk burning themselves in the front.   Now I am happy to be driven and my adolescent passion for cars has abated, thank God.


To be continued…