A mixture of old and new: `as she would have wanted'

Steve Boggan
Thursday 04 September 1997 23:02

It is a mix of the old and the new, the traditional and the avant garde, the poignant, the popular and the compassionate.

In short, Diana's funeral service is exactly what she would have wanted and it drew gasps of appreciation after its unveiling yesterday from those who knew and loved her.

"They've achieved the impossible," said the Reverend Tony Lloyd, head of the Leprosy Mission, one of the six charities with which the Princess was most closely involved.

"I was hoping for something that would unite the nation in its grief, provide an opportunity for thanksgiving for her life and remind us that there is hope. On Saturday, this will achieve all three."

Mr Lloyd, a great friend of the Princess, was particularly impressed with the choice of "Make Me a Channel of your Peace", the modern re-working of the words of St Francis of Assisi by Sebastian Temple, the choice of the Prime Minister's reading from Corinthians, and the new rendition of "Candle in the Wind".

"Diana was always trying to make herself a channel though which peace and hope could be achieved, so that is most appropriate," he said. "The Prime Minister's reading from Corinthians is about the virtues of love and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These were reflected in Diana's giving, her wit and charisma. In Greek, that translates to charitas which means compassion and love. And I think `Candle in the Wind' is sad but appropriate."

The choice of words and music were made in conjunction with both families but much of the input on the musical side came from Diana's sister, Lady Sarah McCorquodale. Her choices of Tomaso Albinoni's "Adagio", Antonin Dvorak's "Largo" from the "New World Symphony", Pachelbel's "Canon" and Elgar's "Nimrod", were praised by Simon Lindley, secretary of the Church Music Society.

Coupled with the more contemporary "Prelude" by William Harris and pieces by Camille Saint-Saens, he said the choice was "breathtaking".

"It is a wonderful kaleidoscope of music that is very popular and familiar with elements of the new," he said. "The inclusion of work by Mendelssohn and William Harris was most appropriate."

He praised the organist who will play in Westminster Abbey,Martin Baker, is one of the country's finest improvisers. "So, if anything is delayed on the day, Martin will be able to cover," he added.

Both men applauded the inclusion of Elton John as a great friend and a celebrated musician. The Very Rev Dr Wesley Carr, the Dean of Westminster, invited the musician to attend at the start of the week - and admitted there had been concerns over how emotionally difficult he might find the occasion.

"Like everyone else, we were swept up in the emotion of the thing and we found ourselves on that great public tidal wave, thinking the same things as most people," he said. "And, like most people, we thought this would be what she would have wanted.

"We contacted Elton John and he replied very positively very quickly. He was close to Diana in two fields; her love of popular music and of the fashion world.

"Yes, we thought he might find it difficult, but he wants to do it. I would expect people to weep at funerals if that is how they feel. But we have been very careful here to combine grieving with thanksgiving and hope, and I would not expect much weeping by the end."

Westminster Abbey staff said last night that they had been unable to source the two passages to be read by the Princess's sisters, Lady Sarah and Lady Jane Fellowes, but hoped to identify them before the ceremony.

The choice of "Song for Athene" by John Tavener to lead into the national period of silence at the end of the service is particularly poignant. It was written by Tavener in 1993 as a tribute to a young friend who was killed in a cycling accident.

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