Alan Tavener is a music graduate of the University of Oxford (where he was Heberden Organ Scholar at Brasenose College and when he gained diplomas in organ performance and teaching) and an educational research graduate of the University Strathclyde, where he focussed on the social, educational and health benefits of singing, and where he was Director of Music with responsibility for teaching, the promotion of a professional concerts series, and the direction of a wide range of student choirs, orchestras and ensembles. This included forming Strathclyde University Chamber Choir, which he continues to direct, and which has toured many times in Europe and further afield, has undertaken recorded and live radio broadcasts, as released a CD of Romantic Scottish part-songs and has premiered many new works including 11 of James MacMillan’s Strathclyde Motets.
Alan is also Conductor of the Scottish Plainsong Choir, and leads music classes and choirs for Strathclyde University’s Centre for Lifelong Learning. As well as working with established and ad hoc choirs ranging between community choirs and one-off choral workshops, Alan is periodically invited to direct specialist workshops for other organisations, and to work with other established choirs. In 2008, he was invited to direct a master-class for postgraduate Students at the Moscow Conservatoire, to which he has received a return invitation, and has since led sessions for the Association of British Choral Directors as well as mentoring for their Apprentice Conductors scheme.
Together with Rebecca Tavener, in 1982 Alan founded Cappella Nova, the award-winning professional vocal ensemble which has established an unrivalled reputation as champions of Scotland’s unique treasury of early vocal music (notably the music of the 16th century Scottish polyphonist, Robert Carver), as well as being renowned for its performances of contemporary music, having commissioned and premiered more than 100 new works, which include John Tavener’s monumental three-hour oratorio, Resurrection (1990) broadcast on BBC Radio 3, and James MacMillan’s cantata for Holy Week Seven Last Words from the Cross (1994) which was the subject of seven short films for BBC2 TV. He has made 15 CD recordings with the ensemble, including 3 of the complete authenticated works of Robert Carver, and 3 of the choral music of James MacMillan (the first two of which were nominated ‘Editor’s Choice’ in The Gramophone). Besides appearances in many British festivals, Cappella Nova has toured worldwide, including Russia, the USA and several European locations.
As Director of Music at Jordanhill Parish Church in Glasgow, Alan formed and directs a community choir, a children’s choir and an ecumenical liturgical choir, and has recorded a CD of organ works. In 2015 he was awarded the honorary Associateship of the Royal School of Church Music for his “considerable contribution to church music in Scotland, particularly in his ecumenical approach”.
Alan’s interest in the holistic benefits of group-singing activities has also been ongoing: he served on the Making Music national strategic action group for music and wellbeing (presenting a paper at its 2011 Conference), and led a participative session in 2012 at Strathclyde University’s Centre for Lifelong Learning 25th anniversary event Celebrating Silver, and is currently working on the launch of a project to facilitate supported participative group-singing activities for people with dementia and others with health and social care needs.