- Associated Press - Saturday, July 10, 2010

LONDON (AP) - David Fanshawe, a widely traveled musical explorer best known as the composer of “African Sanctus,” has died at age 68.

Fanshawe died on Monday, according to a statement on his website, which did not say where he died. Carolyn Date, chorus manager of the Bournemouth Symphony Chorus, who had worked with Fanshawe, said Saturday he had suffered a stroke.

His early musical education was as a chorister at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, and later at the Royal College Music, where his studies alternated with travel.

“I am often asked which came first: the composing or the travels? All I can say is that as a composer, without my travels, I would have nothing original to say,” Fanshawe wrote in Gramophone magazine in 2002.

“African Sanctus,” which premiered in 1972, was based on music collected during four years of wanderings in Egypt, Sudan, Kenya and Uganda.

“He definitely thought of himself as a musical explorer, someone who would record music that he thought was in danger of extinction,” Richard Blackford, a composer and friend of Fanshawe, said of “African Sanctus.”

“His idea was to collate it into the format, the structure of the Catholic mass, but to have a universal expression of those experiences that the mass covers: life, death, celebrations and in particular the Lord’s Prayer which has now become a standard,” Blackford said in an interview with BBC radio.

Fanshawe estimated that he had been present for nearly 600 performances of the work, never conducting but handling the recorded sounds used in concert, playing piano and trying to communicate his passion to the singers.

He recalled nearly being bitten by a black mamba snake in Africa, and having his canoe overturned by a hippopotamus on a fast-flowing stretch of the Nile.

“I didn’t see the hippopotamus. I was recording, at the time, a love song, being sung by the person paddling the canoe,” Fanshawe said in an interview with http://www.thebeijinger.com before performances of “African Sanctus” in Beijing and Tianjin in April.

In an interview with Mary Campbell of The Associated Press in 1989, Fanshawe recalled early journeys in Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran, and how he was inspired by hearing pearl divers sing in Bahrain.

“It was more than beautiful. It was guttural. It was of the earth,” Fanshawe said.

“It was the work chants of these pearl divers that made me rush back to England and come back with a tape recorder.”

The pearl divers inspired his composition “Salaams,” premiered in 1970.

Fanshawe produced CDs from Tahiti, Tonga, Polynesia, Micronesia, Melanesia, Thailand and Laos. The CD “Music of the Nile” includes the music from Egypt, Sudan, Uganda and Kenya gathered which inspired “African Sanctus.”

The Fanshawe Collection now holds 3,000 audio tapes and 60,000 images.

Fanshawe devoted a decade to collecting music in the Pacific, and was working on an opera, “Pacific Odyssey,” which was intended to premiere at the Sydney Opera House.

Recalling his travels among the Pacific islands, Fanshawe told the AP: “I have been to Paradise. It is there. I’m not telling you which one.”

He is survived by his wife, Jane, their daughter, and a daughter and a son from his first marriage.

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