Music Moves Center Stage at the Winter Olympics

Posted in News on February 5, 2002

by Jon Burlingame

The XIX Olympic Winter Games aren't just about athletes and world-class competition. The music is world-class, too, and BMI composers are contributing much of what will be heard by a worldwide television audience at the opening and closing ceremonies.

David Foster

John Williams

Kurt Bestor

Michael Kamen

Five-time Oscar winner John Williams has written his fourth Olympic theme, "Call of the Champions." A rousing fanfare that utilizes the full symphonic and choral forces of the Utah Symphony and the 350-voice Mormon Tabernacle Choir, it also is believed to be the first Olympic theme to set to music the ancient motto "citius, altius, fortius" (Latin for "swifter, higher, stronger").

"The Olympics are a wonderful metaphor for world cooperation," says Williams, "the kind of international competition that's wholesome and healthy, an interplay between countries that represents the best in all of us." The composer previously penned themes for the Olympics in 1984, 1988 and 1996, winning an Emmy for his "Summon the Heroes" theme for the '96 games in Atlanta.  

Williams will conduct his five-minute piece at the Opening Ceremonies in Rice-Eccles Olympic Stadium on Friday, February 8, the composer's 70th birthday.

Salt Lake City composer Kurt Bestor, an Emmy winner for his music for the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics, has, with partner, Sam Cardon, written a five-minute piece for the Closing Ceremonies. It will be heard as the athletes march into the stadium with the flags of each of their respective nations.

"It's scored for full orchestra, adult choir and children's choir, as well as a plethora of world instruments. It will sound like a big celebration," says Bestor. The choirs will be singing words like "jubilation" and "celebration" in various languages. "This is the culmination of three weeks which we hope will be nothing but joyous," he adds. "The music will say that."

Grammy-winning songwriter-producer David Foster and his wife Linda Thompson Foster have penned a song based on this year's theme, "Light the Fire Within," to be sung by Leann Rimes after the lighting of the Olympic torch. The Canadian-born Foster - who composed the theme for the '88 games in Calgary and the '96 Olympic song "The Power of the Dream" - became an American citizen just last year. Another Foster tune, "The Prayer" (with lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager), will be performed by Charlotte Church and hot new artist Josh Groban during the closing ceremonies.

Famed Broadway composer Frank Wildhorn is also unveiling "Gold," a song from his upcoming theater piece Camille Claudel, during the opening ceremonies.

Michael Kamen, who contributed music to both the opening and closing ceremonies of the Atlanta games, returns with a 10-minute piece (also on the theme of "Light the Fire Within") that will feature no fewer than 1,000 ice skaters during the Opening Ceremonies.

Kamen applied his gifts in several musical arenas: The Utah Symphony and Mormon Choir are supplemented by a rock & roll band, former Queen guitarist Brian May on electric guitar, a boy soprano, tribal rhythms and a 150-voice children's choir, all in the service of a story about "a child of light, all very hopeful and positive," he says.

"The Olympics, historically," Kamen points out, "were always a gathering not just of athletes but of artisans. Music has always been as much a part of the Games as epic poetry and players. The arts have always combined with the physical prowess of athletes to express ourselves as human beings. That's what the Olympics are about."


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