Song for Athene, by John Tavener, Westminster Abbey Choir
“Song for Athene is another elegiac tribute, not, as one might suppose, to the mythological goddess Athene, but to a young family friend, Athene Hariades, half Greek, a talented actress who was tragically killed in a cycling accident. “Her beauty,” write Tavener, “both outward and inner, was reflected in her love of acting, poetry, music and of the Orthodox Church.” Tavener had heard Athene reading Shakespeare in Westminster Abbey and, rather as in the case of the Little Requiem, conceived the piece after her funeral, lighting on the effective ideas, so touchingly realized, of combining words from the Orthodox liturgy with lines from Hamlet. Between each is a monodic “Alleluia”, and, following the example of traditional Byzantine music, the whole piece unfolds over a continuous “ison” or drone.
Song for Athene perfectly exemplifies that inner serenity, purity and radiance which gives Tavener’s music its consolatory attraction in troubled times. ” Richard Steinitz
The song in this video was recordered at Westminster Abbey in July of 1994, as is why I chose various photographs surrounding London’s Westminster Abbey.
Song for Athene was cast heavily into the spotlight on September 6th, 1997. Millions of people, the world over, would hear this piece for the first time as the flag-draped casket of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, was carried out of Westminster Abbey, destined to its final resting place at Althorp, north of London.