Tony Blair's Education Secretary Ruth Kelly has had a torrid week over her department's decision to to allow a registered sex offender to work as a Physical Education teacher in a Norfolk school. The furore reminded me of this musical story:
For the first performance of John Tavener's The Cappermakers at Charleston Manor in 1964, students from the Royal Academy and the Royal College were bolstered by professionals. Tavener (right) himself conducted, and Francis Steiner took the prominent piano part in the ensemble, which consisted otherwise of woodwind, horn, trumpet, harp and string quintet. The chorus was the St Christopher Singers, who also provided the male trio to sing the part of Christ. One solo tenor and one baritone shared the parts of Lazarus and the four Jews.
In a volume of Stravinsky's conversations, Tavener had read the great composer's description of the part of Satan in his opera The Flood: 'a high, slightly pederastic tenor'. Having no idea what 'pederastic' meant, but assuming it was a musical term, and loving the sound of Satan on the recording of The Flood, John urged his soloists to sing more pederastically. One of them 'turned the colour of an orange', he remembers. During the next break in rehearsals, someone explained to Tavener what a pederast was.
From Geoffrey Haydon's biography John Tavener - Glimpses of Paradise (Gollancz ISBN 575057033)
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Image credit: John Tavener linked from Schirmer.com
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If you enjoyed this post take An Overgrown Path to Classic misunderstandings - Beethoven's movements