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John Tavener

Publisher: Chester Music

Prayer for Jerusalem (2006)
Chester Music Ltd
Chorus and Orchestra/Ensemble
Year Composed
8 Minutes
unison children's voices

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Programme Note
John Tavener Prayer for Jerusalem (2006)


We live in the time of the last days of the Kali-Yuga, the Dark Age of Hinduism. The great religious traditions of the world are in a state of old age, and therefore of senility and human corruption. My Prayer for Jerusalem is an Invocation to the One God of Islam, Judaism and Christianity – Allah, Adonai, Kyrie. The Hadith of the Prophet Mohammed proclaims that God is a Beautiful Being, and he loves Beauty. Very little of that beauty can be seen in the behaviour of some among mankind, who are made in his image and yet at this moment in time seem to have become a distortion and a gross perversion of that Eternal Beauty.

In Prayer for Jerusalem, I have tried to rediscover something of that Eternal Beauty through the language of music. Children’s voices invoke the name of God as a mantra throughout, while the strings play a six-part canon based on the very name of Jerusalem, which is the spiritual home of Jews, Muslims and Christians, but also, and more importantly, a symbol of the Celestial City. The Prayer is a Triptych, rising to an impassioned cry in the central section, and then, in the final section, coming to a mood of serenity and Beatitude. Indeed, the very substance of the Divine Being.


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The Israel Camerata opened its latest season with a world premiere, British composer John Tavener’s “Prayer for Jerusalem”. The piece was performed by the women of Germany’s Chorus Musicus Koeln, who were conducted by Christoph Spering. The piece’s poignancy lies in the seeming simplicity of its structure. God’s name is repeated over and over in Greek, Hebrew and Arabic in ostinato form, at first calmly by all the women of the choir and then in powerful outcry by the sopranos. The accompanying strings provide a contrasting, multi-voiced texture, and the chanting eventually subsides, softly sung at its conclusion by the choir’s altos. The force of the work gradually accumulates, effectively conveying the intensity of a faithful worshiper’s prayers.
Ury Eppstein, Jerusalem Post,24/10/2006
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