Little Requiem for Father Malachy Lynch

Little Requiem for Father Malachy Lynch

1972, 13' Chorus and orchestra/ensemble

Chorus: SATB | Orchestration: 2fl | tpt |org | str

Language: Latin

Much of John Tavener's composition throughout the 1960s and 70s was motivated by an intense desire to express metaphysical concepts by musical means. He credited the germ of this desire to his meeting at the age of 12 with the singular Father Malachy Lynch, a Carmelite whom he described as 'one of the most interesting Roman Catholics' he ever met. Lynch indulged his own broad theological interest with frequent visits by Sufi and Methodist friends to the Kent castle in which he lived during the latter part of his life, the walls of which Tavener recalled were littered with notes encouraging his guests to maintain 'the medieval spirit in art.'

Tavener's teenage involvement as organist at a Presbyterian church continued, his focus on Roman Catholicism only sharpening some years later, yet Lynch was in fact an early influence on his much later inclination toward the Orthodox Church. Lynch also confided to the young composer his sense that, 'the Roman Catholic Church is a fading star.' Following his eventual disillusionment with Catholicism, Tavener pondered this as a possible reference to what he felt as the oppressive dogmatism that kept him from embracing this tradition. Musically, however, Catholicism was a strong influence and Tavener continued to regard the old Latin services of Holy Week as some of the 'most desolate and primordially moving.'

Upon the death of Father Malachy Lynch in 1972, Tavener experienced the first of several instances of works coming to him 'fully born.' During Lynch’s open-air funeral at Aylesford Priory, the opening section of the Little Requiem for Father Malachy Lynch entered his mind, the following sections unfolding during the drive home to London. Tavener subsequently had a number of works appear to him in this way, as if it were a parting gift from the deceased.