Tavener’s Song for Athene is a slow building anthem that is a simultaneous reflection on death and celebration of life. The song is cloaked in a brooding drone that carries throughout the piece, forever the mainstay and support of the remaining voice parts. The whole thing progresses from a slow and quiet prayer for the departed and builds until it eventually becomes a brassy, shining celebration of God’s promise.
The story behind Song for Athene is as interesting as the music itself. It is an ode, not to the goddess Athena, but to a family friend who passed. The words are inspired and quoted from the Bible, Shakespeare, and other texts; all of which come together in this breathtaking and soothing piece that is the favorite of many.
I had the distinct privilege of singing this piece with the Te Deum Chamber Choir under the direction of Matthew Christopher Shepard.