He is a composer born in Wembley, London,
England. He studied at
Highgate School with a fellow pupil being the composer/conductor John
Rutter, and went on to attend the Royal Academy of Music where Sir Lennox
Berkeley taught him, among others.
When he was 24 he composed The Whale, which was a cantata, based on
the story of Jonah and the whale, premiered by the London Sinfonietta. Ringo Starr had received a tape of
the piece and after having dinner with John Lennon and Yoko Ono; John
Lennon decided to record it on the new Apple label. This catapulted him into the
beginning of a long and successful career in composition and after becoming
a member of the Russian Orthodox Church, its traditions and theology has
played a large part in his works.
Often having composers such as Stravinsky, Arvo Part and Oliver
Messaien named as the influences of his earlier works, he is often now seen
to use the influences from non-Western music and religions. A sufferer of Marfan Syndrome,
which affects the physical features and frame, he underwent major heart
surgery in 1991 in which he nearly died. This experiences was the basis for "Last Sleep of the
Virgin" written for a string quartet.
He moved to Greece
after further surgery and Queen Elizabeth II knighted him in 2000. His compositions include The
Protecting Veil, Sixteen Haiku of Seferis, the opera Therese, The
Beautiful Names, Eternity's Sunrise dedicated to the memory of Princess
Diana, "The Lamb" which is often heard as a Christmas carol, and a new
setting for the carol "Away in a Manger".