A conductor breaks silence on his Olympic role:
Because of various sensitivities the anthems are usually recorded anew for each games.
About a year before the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics the Vancouver Symphony and I recorded over 100 national anthems, including two versions of the Kazakhstan anthem – we were told there was some uncertainty about which was correct. In some cases countries had sent their preferred versions – others just had to be procured or orchestrated. Some of the arrangements were very good indeed and some execrable. The Indian and Nepal anthems posed stylistic challenges but most were fairly straightforward. There were so many anthems with mini-fanfares and trumpet heralds that the brass had their work cut out.
I’m afraid the UK anthem sounded quite underwhelming in comparison with most others. Towards the end of the games I was in the UK and remember hearing the VSO playing ‘O Canada’ on the television in the bar of a Watford hotel when Canada won gold for hockey against the USA. We had used our traditional VSO arrangement in preference to that officially supplied – this is the same version we play on opening night every season.
As we recorded ‘O Canada’ there were dozens of cameras and journos in the hall. It was one of the earliest media events of the games: