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The esoteric art of bell-ringing is about to get its biggest showcase in history as part of the 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony. Before the Ceremony kicks off at 9pm on July 27, church bells will be rung across London in a three-minute chorus in anticipation of what is to come later that night, when the largest harmonically tuned bell in the world will officially mark the opening of the games.
The official organisers of cultural events across London, the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad, have not skimped on musical programming, with over 16 million people across the UK participating in performances. One project will see 20 new sporting-themed compositional commissions, produced by PRS for Music Foundation, played throughout the country. Joe Cutler’s table-tennis inspired composition, Ping!, was specially scored for the Coull String Quartet.
As for the Opening Ceremony itself, traditional English hymns and classical hits combine with some very eclectic musical tastes to create a multi-genre embracing occasion. In terms of fine English music, the leaked line-up is set to include Handel’s Queen of Sheba and the Fireworks suite, while Elgar - who was sure to appear somewhere - comes in the form of Nimrod and Land Of Hope and Glory. The traditional Jerusalem, Abide With Me and Eton Boating Song are hardly surprising inclusions but the Sex Pistols’ rendition of God Save the Queen is sure to leave a mark; perhaps it’s a good thing the Queen is yet to confirm her attendance.
The Verve’s hit Bittersweet Symphony and multi-genre composer Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells and In Dulci Jubilo will provide a backdrop of the ‘new’ in British music. Flower of Scotland has been recorded by Scottish choir of 21 year olds as well as Cwm Rhondda by a Welsh Children’s choir; both will be screened at the opening ceremony. British favourites rumoured to be performing such as Paul Mcartney and Arctic Monkeys, as well as Broadway musical hits such as "Food, Glorious Food" from the musical Oliver will add to this diverse mixing pot alongside themes from Doctor Who and Monty Python.
Headed by Danny Boyle and English electronic dance duo Underworld (Rick Smith and Karl Hyde), the extravaganza, entitled Isles of Wonder, will bring together a year’s worth of cultural indulgences across London.
Controversy has not been absent, with outcry across the globe after the announcement that musicians would not be paid for their services to the games, and the confirmation that the LSO would indeed be pre-recording all live music 6 weeks in advance, miming their performances for the entire ceremony. The Daily Mail reported that LSO cellist Julian Wright has voiced concern over these farcical arrangements. With such distaste and insult to the esteemed LSO and England’s leading maestro Sir Simon Rattle - who is set to literally wave his arms around in mime - it is not hard to condemn.
The line-up for the Closing Ceremony on August 12 is still somewhat unknown, yet icons including Russell Brand, One Direction, George Michael, Annie Lenox, Queen and Dawn French have been mentioned. Model Kate Moss will lead a catwalk parade, a montage representing England’s notorious peak hour traffic will fill the stage, Coldstream guards will march and ballerina Darcey Bussell will perform with the Royal Ballet. Entitled "A Symphony of British Music", there is potential for a promising program of England’s vast repertoire of classical music; particularly with British composer-conductor David Arnold as Musical Director. The big name producers behind the sure-to-be opening and closing extravaganza’s instil confidence with their respective achievements; surely the producer of The Reader, the designer of Cirque du Soleil and the director of the MTV Music Awards can’t do wrong. The Opening Ceremony will in fact mark the beginning of the end of a diverse cultural season across the UK, but with the Proms around the corner, we can take comfort in the knowledge that Sir Simon Rattle’s flyaway hair and sweat is all his and not the work of a hair and makeup department.