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Composer set mood at Princess Di's funeral

| Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013, 1:26 a.m.

LONDON — British composer John Tavener, whose austere choral and orchestral works reflected his religious journey from West to East, died on Tuesday. He was 69.

Tavener's publisher, Chester Music, said he died at his home in Child Okeford, southern England.

Born and trained in London, Tavener burst onto the public scene in 1968 with the help of The Beatles and is often remembered for his beautiful “Song for Athene” — reworked as “Songs of Angels” — that caught the public's mood at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales.

His wistful, elegant setting of William Blake's poem “The Lamb” (1982) became a staple of Christmas carol services.

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

Tavener was born in 1944 into a music-loving family in north London.

Abandoning an ambition to be a concert pianist, Tavener studied composition at London's Royal Academy of Music.

In the late 1960s, his cantata “The Whale” brought him fame with the help of The Beatles, who released it on their Apple records label.

Tavener said he caught the attention of John Lennon and Yoko Ono at a party by playing a tape of his opera, “Notre Dames des Fleurs.”

Tavener's later, better-known works flowed from his conversion to Orthodox Christianity and his collaboration with Mother Thekla, a Russian emigre and Orthodox nun.

The fruits of their collaboration included “The Protecting Veil” in 1987, “Song for Athene” (1993), “The Apocalypse” (1993), “Fall and Resurrection” (1999), and “We Shall See Him as He Is” (1993).

Tavener, whose work was championed by Prince Charles, received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II in 2000 for services to music.

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