Matthew Barley/Cellist

Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.

Victor Hugo

The Red Dean

I went to a book launch in Canterbury Cathedral Deanery a couple of weeks ago, for the publication of a biography of my infamous and beloved Grandfather, The Red Dean, The Very Reverend Hewlett Johnson. He was a deeply controversial figure because of his strongly left-wing views (MI5 tailed him for 35 years), but also known as a gifted orator and a passionate advocate for many causes whose friends ranged from Gandhi to Sir Adrian Boult! The biography promises to be a fantastic read, and is available from the Cathedral bookshop should anyone be so interested.

I discovered while talking to the author, Professor John Butler, that at Hewlett’s funeral the Kontakion was played – the Hymn for the Dead from the Russian Orthodox church. This fascinated me:  I was also talking to the current Dean about playing in the Cathedral in 2013 during my UK tour to celebrate the centenary of Britten’s birth, and I will be playing his 3rd solo suite, which is all based on the Kontakion. No such thing as a coincidence? My Granfather is buried in the Cathedral cloisters, and I can imagine how magical it will feel to play that music there.

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