Sir Elton John paid tribute to Dame Elizabeth Taylor at a private memorial yesterday (16.10.11).

Close friends and family of the Hollywood legend - who died of congestive heart failure in March aged 79 - gathered at the Steven J. Ross Theatre on the Warner Brothers lot in Burbank, California, for a 70-minute service, which was hosted by her friend Colin Farrell.

Speaking to the assembled guests - which included Sir Michael Caine, the actress' children Michael and Christopher Wilding, Liza Tivey and Maria Burton, and stepdaughter Kate Burton - Elton said: "To say that the world got smaller, emptier, darker and lonelier when we lost Elizabeth is an understatement. She was a true rock, a pioneer, a pathfinder, a trailblazer and a star who will always burn bright and always had time to laugh at herself." 

The musician closed the ceremony with a rendition of 'Blue Eyes', while her grandson Rhys Tivey also gave a musical tribute, playing 'Amazing Grace' on trumpet.

A guest told "People were mesmerised how her talent and grace lived on in Rhys."

Several guests spoke at the service, praising her acting talent, beauty, and work as an HIV/AIDS campaigner, with a montage of her lobbying in the early 1980s played on screen.

Elton said: "Many of us remember all too well, those early days of the AIDS epidemic in the early to mid-1980s. It brought out the worst - hysteria, bigotry, callous indifference. But it also allowed an angel and warrior, like Elizabeth, to rise up and show us how to respond instead with compassion, reason, and humanity." 

Elizabeth's family were moved that so many people had turned out to pay their respects to her.

Her son Michael said afterwards: "My mother was an extraordinary woman whose life touched so many, most of whom we will never know. 

"Our whole family is extremely proud of her accomplishments, and know what a unique and special experience it was to have her in our lives. Today, it was especially meaningful for us to be with so many good friends to celebrate her spirit, which will be with us forever."