Hundreds Attend Tavener Funeral In Winchester

28 November 2013, 13:24

The widow and children of Dorset composer Sir John Tavener, one of the greatest British figures in contemporary classical music, have led hundreds of mourners at his funeral in Hampshire.

Maryanna Tavener, daughters Theodora and Sofia and son Orlando, proceeded behind the coffin as it was carried into Winchester Cathedral.

Among the 700-strong congregation was Lady Portal, representative of the Prince of Wales, who was said to be "saddened'' by the death.

The musician died earlier this month at the age of 69 after suffering health problems for many years.

The funeral service was a Greek Orthodox service followed by a chance for the congregation to approach the coffin and say a final farewell.

The Very Reverend James Atwell, Dean of Winchester, said: "We are gathered to commend to God someone who opened a door to heaven for so many people by his music with its transparently spiritual quality.''

His Eminence Archbishop Gregorios of Thyateira and Great Britain, said: "He reached out with his music to touch the intangible, we should be grateful to God for his contribution to beauty.''

Music at the service included several of Sir John's works including "Angels'' and "Mother of God, here I stand'' with singing led by the Choir of Winchester Cathedral.

The retiring collection is to go towards a memorial fund to "benefit creative and intellectual endeavours close to John's heart''.

In the late 1960s, Sir John was famously signed to The Beatles' record label Apple and his music was notably performed at the funeral of Diana, Princess Of Wales, in 1997.

A gifted organist in his early teens before making his name as a composer, Sir John died peacefully at home in Child Okeford, Dorset, on November 12.

He was a giant not only of the classical world, but also in physical stature, standing 6ft 6in, and was instantly recognisable, with his mane of collar-length blond hair.

He rose to prominence when, after studying at the Royal Academy of Music, his oratorio The Whale was premiered at the London Sinfonietta's first concert and was released by Apple, which was better known for pop and rock releases.

Within a decade, the deeply spiritual composer found a home in the Greek Orthodox Church, and the musical traditions of the eastern churches infused much of his work.

He was knighted for services to music in the Millennium Honours list.