NB this article was embargoed until the event and is now published and backdated
“I create Gods all the time – now I think one may exist” – Terry Pratchett
One of the most popular authors of our lifetime, Terry Pratchett, author of the Discworld series who sold 85 million books worldwide, died on 12 March 2015 from Alzheimers. The Epiphoni Consort will perform at his memorial at The Barbican Theatre on 14th April 2016.
Sir Terry, God and Death
Pratchett had a deep affection for the music of Thomas Tallis, notably the latter’s epic motet for 40 voices, Spem in Alium, which has been selected for performance at the Memorial.
Sir Terry was far from a religious man, but like many agnostics and atheists, saw something not unlike a God revealing himself through the beauty of music — or breath-taking scenes of nature.
Having most of his career been associated with Death, the fictional character of his Discworld novels, following his diagnosis with Alzheimer’s (which he called an ’embuggerance’), Terry became a major spokesperson in the campaign for assisted suicide – or being “helped across the step” as he preferred to say.
“I intend, before the endgame looms, to die sitting in a chair in my own garden with a glass of brandy in my hand and Thomas Tallis on the iPod,” he wrote in the Mail on Sunday. “Thomas’s music could lift even an atheist a little bit closer to Heaven”.
More specifically he later stated that his vision of death was listening to Spem in Alium as he went — which will imbue its performance on 14th April with even more poignancy.
Assisted dying may not be as romantic as Pratchett sometimes liked to portray. It is a topic too raw for many to discuss but probably not one that modern society can run away from indefinitely. As well as his amazing legacy of fictional writing, history may well remember him as a vocal, rational and humorous voice at the early stages of one of humanity’s most difficult debates.
And of course he loved Spem in Alium. We are honoured to play our part in paying tribute to him.