I was very sad to hear the news of Sir John Tavener’s passing yesterday. Sir John was an extremely pleasant and gentle man, but with an almost unnerving sense of spiritual conviction. He reflected this in his music, much of it specifically based on Russian Orthodoxy, but latterly it became more universal, including elements of Hinduism and Islam. Performing his work is always challenging, stimulating and incredibly rewarding because there’s no other choral music quite like it in our repertoire: it strips away the sentimentality of twentieth century harmonic language often used by the most popular choral composers of today and leaves bare for the performer and listener the deeply intense spirituality of the texts he was setting. His largest work, The Veil of the Temple, will remain one of the ‘giants’ in the choral repertoire for many, many years to come.