The Tavener Centre International Symposium 2019

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Winchester Cathedral

Friday 14 June - Saturday 15 June 2019

University of Winchester, King Alfred Quarter, Sparkford Road, Winchester SO22 4NR



8.30am - 4.30pm:         

Symposium at the University

5.30pm - 6.30pm:   

Tavener evensong in Winchester Cathedral



7.30am - 8am

Prayers in Winchester Cathedral, Epiphany Chapel led by Rev Prof June Boyce-Tillman.

8am - 8.30am

Eucharist in Winchester Cathedral, Epiphany Chapel led by Rev Prof June Boyce-Tillman.

8.30am - 6.15pm:     

Symposium at the University


Tavener Festival Concert  - 'The Protecting Veil' in Winchester Cathedal

(Tickets available at


With keynote speakers Reverend Richard Coles and Professor Liora Bresler, this symposium features over twenty academics in the field of music and spirituality.

The symposium brings together a number of different disciplines and people from three continents, to explore the relationship between music, wellbeing and spirituality. Papers explore spirituality and education with a keynote from Professor Liora Bresler on Music and Spirit: A Power for Research Education in which she will reflect on the power of music to connect us to our spiritual natures and to an intensified sense of vitality and presence. A keynote by the Rev Richard Coles will explore the spiritual in music in various Christian traditions.

More detail on the content of the symposium can be found below.


Symposium cost:

Students:   £95

Other:        £195

Teas, coffees and lunches included.


Click here to book your place at the Symposium

Click here to find out more about the Tavener Festival Concert



Tavener Centre for Music and Spirituality

Centre for the Arts as Wellbeing


Further details on the content of the symposium

Papers will look at:

  • Singers’ motivations, including the yearning to connect with the spiritual power of centuries-old polyphony in the context of changed religious belief (or none); and the contradictory ideals of communal expression (assimilation of every voice into the dynamic harmoniousness of the group) and authentic self-actualization
  • Liberation through the act of defying what is “normal” and creating something that—in its unpredictability—is strangely life-giving, drawing on Gaga feminism
  • The need for an accessible, grounding women-centric tradition, that can contribute to collective wellbeing
  • Drawing together ancient traditions, such as Sanskrit chanting, and recent research, for example, polyvagal theory and neurotheology, the importance of very simple sounds in human development, in spiritual practice and in wellbeing with children with profound and multiple learning difficulties
  • The potential impact of spirituality in a musician’s lifelong transformation and growth drawing on one cellist-teacher’s 30-year journey of seeking the musical sublime with her Christian faith.
  • Making the voices of professional pianists heard towards creating a greater awareness and better understanding of the conditions that promote and enhance spiritual experiences during music-making


In music therapy, there will be a systematic review of the research literature on Music therapy and spirituality by Giorgos Tsiris. Other papers will explore:

  • The power of improvisation to deepen one’s spirituality and be a source of healing.
  • Spiritual experiences associated with altered or non-ordinary states of consciousness in Guided Imagery and Music (GIM), a music-centred form of psychotherapy, drawing on work in palliative and bereavement care
  • The heightened awareness of the value and meaning of piano-playing experiences in older adults which taps into their resources to empower themselves and provide a sense of purpose.
  • How shamanism can be beneficial to the immune system, including the relationship between shamans, endorphins and the frequency of the drum modifying the function of the central nervous system.


Sacred Music, particularly that of Sir John Tavener will form the basis of many studies on such areas as:

  • How the prominence of modal-tonal pitch languages in Sir John Tavener’s work underscores the need for expanded and more inclusive aesthetic sensibilities
  • Tavener’s Three Hymns of George Herbert (2012) and their meditation on the themes of decay, transience and acceptance of death
  • Tavener’s shift towards Perennialism, illustrated by The Veil of the Temple, an innovative way of connecting religions, from the variety of multilingual religious texts to the harmonic language used
  • Music in the Russian Orthodox Church in the 20th century - a spiritual revival
  • An exploration of the relationship between music and public theology, with a particular focus on living well with diversity and how to negotiate a plural public sphere that is marked by diversities of race, class, gender, sexuality, faith, spirituality, and various forms of non-belief. 
  • The everyday threat to the wellbeing of ordinary lay LGBTI+ Christian people in various churches and song writing for them
  • The place of silence in music and spiritual practice


Workshops will explore spirituality through active performance  involving singing and creativity using sound and silence, voice and body percussion. Performances will include Tavener songs, improvisations and pieces inspired by Tavener and an exploration of “spiritual substance”, “being” and “becoming” through drum and dance.  Transformative healing and spirituality will be explored through ancient healing music - slow moving harmonies, ambiguous rhythm, constant bass drone, liberal use of triads and major 7ths, the healing harmonics produced by crystal singing bowls and legato vocal lines based on chant vowels.


Book and journal launches will include:

  • Queering Freedom - Music, Identity and Spirituality: Anthology from North America, UK and South Africa Edited by Karin Hendricks and June Boyce-Tillman which challenges the status quo of music learning and experience by intersecting various musical topics with discussions of spirituality and queer studies. 
  • Enlivening faith : Music, Spirituality and Christian Theology Editor the Rev professor June Boyce-Tillman, Stephen Roberts and Jane Erricker, exploring the connection of music to Christian spirituality through various lenses and from different perspectives addressing the problems such as the place of religion in the public square, including political, cultural, social, legal, educational, aesthetic, ethical, and religious tensions. 
  • A journal issue based on the spirituality of Music Therapy






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