Celebrating the legacy of the composer Sir John Tavener and exploring the relationship between spirituality and music, with particular reference to the great faiths.

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About us

The Tavener Centre for the Study of Music and Spirituality was conceived after the death of the composer Sir John Tavener. It came about through collaborative meetings between the Dean of Winchester Cathedral, the Reverend Professor June Boyce-Tillman of the University of Winchester, Andrew Lumsden, Organist and Choirmaster at the Cathedral, and Lady Tavener. The Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor of the University, Alan Titchmarsh and Prof. Joy Carter respectively, enabled the formation of the Tavener Centre as a research unit, part of the University's Centre for the Arts as Wellbeing. The Patron is the Rev'd Richard Coles.

Sir John Tavener seated at the piano

Sir John Tavener’s creative relationship with the Cathedral and its choir was established in the 1970s and continues to this day. His link with the University of Winchester was established in 2007 with the award of an Honorary Doctorate. His Orthodox funeral was held in Winchester Cathedral in 2013, and a memorial was commissioned for 2016.

Meet the Convenor

​Reverend Professor June Boyce-Tillman, Professor of Applied Music

Centre aims

  • To explore the relationship between spirituality and music, with particular reference to the great faiths
  • To organise a festival of Sir John Tavener’s music every three years
  • To organise academic conferences linked with the festival
  • To disseminate Sir John’s understanding of the relationship between music and spirituality

Centre research

Music and Spirituality series

Edited by Rev’d Prof. June Boyce-Tillman, Tavener Centre Director, Music and Spirituality explores the relationships between spirituality and music in a variety of traditions and contexts including those in which human beings have performed music with spiritual intention or effect. It addresses the plurality of modern society in the areas of musical style and philosophical and religious beliefs, and gives respect to different positions regarding the place of music both in worship and in wider society.

The series includes historical, anthropological, musicological, ethno-musicological, theological and philosophical dimensions and encourages multi-disciplinary and cross-disciplinary contributions. It looks for well-researched studies with new and open approaches to spirituality and music and encourages interesting innovative case-studies. Books within the series are subject to peer review and will include single- and co-authored monographs as well as edited collections, including conference proceedings. The use of musical material in either written or recorded form as part of submissions is welcome.

Several of the books in this series have been compiled from papers presented at the Tavener Centre’s annual Study Day in November. For further details on the series and available titles, visit the publisher’s website.

Latest title

Boyce-Tillman, J. (2018) Freedom Song: Faith, Abuse, Music and Spirituality. A Lived Experience of Celebration (Peter Lang International Academic Publishers)

An autobiographical account of the development of an authentic interiority, this book charts the way in which the Christian faith in which the author was enculturated was refined by her lived experience of music, abuse, forgiveness, interfaith dialogue, gender and vocation (into teaching and priesthood). The author describes how music and spirituality can create a route into forgiveness by creatively transforming childhood abuse into celebration. Her work challenges established therapeutic models and suggests a variety of alternative tools, including created ritual.

The volume is set out as a series of meditations on the themes contained in the Lord's Prayer; it can be read in separate sections, as well as in its totality. The author's life is perceived as a crystal that can be viewed through various lenses, illustrated by different styles of writing. These include narrative accounts written in a personal style; hymns, songs and poems that condense her thinking around a theme; and more academic reflection, using other people's writing and experiences to understand her own.

Proposed future titles

Enlivening Faith: Music, Spirituality and Christian Theology. Under review.

The Spirituality of the Music of John Tavener. CALL FOR PAPERS NOW OPEN, download the The Spirituality of John Tavener Volume Call for Papers.

Music, Spirituality and WellbeingCALL FOR PAPERS NOW OPEN, download the Music, Spirituality and Wellbeing Volume Call for Papers.

Spirituality and Music Education (SAME)

SAME is an international network set up in response to the growing interest in the notion and place of spirituality in music education. Led by the University of Winchester Tavener Centre for Music and Spirituality, its main aims are to:

• Establish and maintain an international community of music education academics, researchers and practitioners with a particular interest in the role of spirituality in their work;
• Provide music educators with specific tools and methods to integrate spirituality into everyday music education practice;
• Foster intercultural and interspiritual dialogue, understanding and collaboration among practitioners and researchers in the field of music education, and other relevant fields of music practices with a spiritual component;
• Promote a spiritually sensitive and informed culture in music education practice and research.

Forthcoming conferences

14/15 June 2019: International Symposium on Music, Spirituality, Wellbeing & Theology (the 5th International SAME Conference), Winchester Cathedral, UK. For more information, see below under Tavener Centre Events.

Past conferences


1st International Conference on Spirituality and Music Education, 18 – 20 June 2010, Birmingham UK.


Research in Music Education (RIME,) Exeter 2011. Metaphor and Mindfulness in Music Education: Approaches to Researching Spirituality in Music Education

Inspired by SAME, a proposal for a Symposium on Spirituality in Music Education was successfully submitted and presented at the 7th International Research in Music Education Conference, 12-16 April, 2011.


2nd International Conference on Spirituality and Music Education, Lithuania


3rd International Conference on Spirituality and Music Education, 25–27 March 2015, School of Music & Conservatory, North-West University: Potchefstroom Campus South Africa


4th International Spirituality and Music Education Conference, a collaboration between Nordoff Robbins and SAME, 9/10 Dec. 2017, London. Find out more.

Contact SAME

For more information on SAME, to find out more about the forthcoming SAME conference or if you would like to join the group, contact Prof. June Boyce-Tillman.

Tavener Centre events

Forthcoming events

14/15 June 2019: International Symposium on Music, Spirituality, Wellbeing & Theology

In association with the SAME (Spirituality and Music Education) Conference

Whilst we live in a culture filled with music, many of the former certainties of traditional religions have slipped away. However, there remains a search for the spiritual, exemplified in the music of Sir John Tavener. The Symposium aims to examine the place of music in this complex world, especially its role in wellbeing, through the insights of musicologists, composers, listeners, teachers, therapists and performers.

The symposium brings together different disciplines and people from three continents to explore the relationship between music, wellbeing and spirituality. In music therapy, there will be a systematic review of the literature on music therapy and spirituality. There will be workshops, performances, and book and journal launches.


Professor Liora Bresler will reflect on the power of music to connect us to our spiritual natures and to an intensified sense of vitality and presence.

The Reverend Richard Coles, Tavener Centre Patron, co-presenter of BBC Radio 4's Saturday Live and a musician himself, will explore spirituality in music in various Christian traditions.

For any queries, contact the Tavener Centre Administrator, Holly Pye

Find out more and book your place

Recent events

16 November 2018: International Study Day on Music, Spirituality and Wellbeing

In prepration for the June 2019 Symposium, this Study Day aimed to examine the place of music in this complex world, especially its role in wellbeing, through the insights of musicologists, composers, listeners, teachers, therapists and performers.


The Tavener Centre's Patron is the Reverend Richard Coles, vicar of Finedon in Northamptonshire and co-host of BBC Radio 4's Saturday Live programme.

The Reverend Richard Coles is the Patron of the University of Winchester's Tavener Centre for Music and Spirituality

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