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The Man Who Composed Princess Diana’s Musical Farewell

One of the most moving moments of Princess Diana’s funeral in 1997 was the performance of a strikingly simple but nonetheless haunting choral piece titled “Song for Athene” as her casket was carried out of Westminster Abbey. YouTube Preview Image

“Athene” was the work of British composer John Tavener, who died on Nov. 12 at age 69 in England. Tavener was a giant of modern music, and not just figuratively. At 6 feet 6 inches in height with a balding dome and stringy shoulder-length tresses, Tavener looked more like an aging rock star than the writer of elegant, deeply spiritual music that aimed to uplift listeners’ hearts and minds.

“I think there are an awful lot of artists around who are very good at leading us into hell,” Tavener once explained, according to the Associated Press. “I would rather someone would show me the way to paradise.”

Sir John TavenerAside from “Athene,” Tavener’s most famous work was the music he wrote in the early 1980s to accompany William Blake’s poem “The Lamb,” which became a staple of Christmas church services. He also composed “A New Beginning,” a piece chosen to welcome in the 21st century at the Millennium Dome in London on New Year’s Eve 1999.

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Here are some other intriguing facts about Tavener:

 

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Photo: Devlin Crow via Wikimedia

 

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