• John Tavener
  • In the Month of Athyr (1998)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)

Commissioned by The Tallis Scholars for their 25th anniversary

  • SATB
  • Narrator
  • 7 min
  • John Tavener
  • C.P. Cavafy, trans. Phillip Sherrard

Programme Note

In the month of Athyr was written in Cavafy’s late thirties. It is typical of his musings on ancient Egypt and Byzantine Greece. The poet sees an ancient stone with an inscription on it. "Lors Jesus Christ”…”A soul”…”In the month of Athyr” all allude to the ancient Egyption and byzntine world, which are at the heart of Cavafy’s poem. "He (Lefkios) was greatly loved…” suggests, in the Greek, someone who could have been a saint.

This work for choir and speaker was commissioned by the Tallis Scholars to celebrate their 25th anniversary. The music should have the stillness of an ancient place, and the speaker should enunciate with awe and solemnity, hesitating as one trying to read the ancient text, represented by the choir.
The first time I heard my music sung by the Tallis Scholars brought about a turning point in my work. The purity and transparency of their sound seemed unequalled. It also led me into writing music for unaccompanied choir and therefore to a Traditional Craft and a way of serving what is left of our God-forsaken society. My admiration for Peter Phillips led me into composing a setting of Cavafy's IN THE MONTH OF ATHYR; our shared love of the great Greek poet seemed fitting for a tribute to Peter Phillips and the Tallis Scholars on their 25th anniversary.

John Tavener