Daily Bow: LSO Told to Mime at Olympic Opening Ceremony

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London Symphony Players Told to Mime Performance at Olympic Opening Ceremony

The Olympics is a time of great celebration. Countries from around the world gather in a celebration of humanity and honor our capacity to perform amazing feats. The opening ceremony is one of the best of examples of this. Four years ago, in China, we saw dancing, acting, fireworks and live music that wowed the world with some of the most amazing instances of coordination and creativity ever seen in an event of that size. Surely the London Games, which is coming up next month, will have many similar stunning acts. Recent reports, however, have revealed that one of the items from the above list will not be part of the opening ceremony.

Last week, musicians from the London Symphony Orchestra were shocked to discover that they have been asked to mime during their performance at the opening ceremony rather than give a true live concert. The orchestra was supposed to play during the parade of nations, providing the soundtrack as athletes from around the world enter the stadium. Instead, a recording made by LSO six weeks ago will play over speakers as the orchestra pretends to play along.

According to the musicians’ union the artistic director of the ceremony, the film director Danny Boyle, wanted the LSO to perform live during the ceremony. The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) turned him down, however, claiming the stadium’s dimensions were unfit for live music and citing the risk of rain as a determining factor in their decision.

An outcry from British musicians has followed, including complaints from music producer Steve Levine, cellist Julian Lloyd Weber, and members of the LSO. They feel that live music is something that England does better than any other country, regardless of venue or weather. Members of the musicians’ union have also called the recording and subsequent show a waste of taxpayer money. Furthermore, LSO members feel insulted because they are being asked to mime in front of a global audience of billions when they should be playing for the glory of their country. What do you think? Is LOCOG being too cautious? Should the LSO be allowed to give a true live performance at the games this year? Comment below!

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2 Responses to Daily Bow: LSO Told to Mime at Olympic Opening Ceremony

  1. Yvonne Caruthers June 14, 2012 at 11:32 am #

    Of course the LSO “should” be allowed to play a live concert….but when TV money is involved, the Golden Rule is invariably invoked: the one who makes the gold makes the rules. I’m a cellist in the National Symphony Orchestra (Washington). We play a lot of outdoor concerts in the summer, in less than ideal conditions, since summers around here are “hazy, hot, and humid.” I bet the LSO players are like us, they own secondary instruments which they use for outdoor venues, and one would hope that some kind of tent could be put up over the orchestra to protect them from the weather, a tiny % of the budget for the Olympics.

    For President Obama’s inauguration, (on a very cold January day), a trio played. When it became public knowledge that they were miming, everyone was ‘shocked.’ But did people really think Yo Yo Ma was going to play his Strad outdoors in January? Or that the clarinetist
    would risk a crack in his best instrument?

    In the same vein, are you ‘shocked’ when you watch a movie that uses stand-ins for the dangerous parts?

    As a professional musician, I’m thrilled when we’re asked to play for a major event. The flip side is that we’re often used as a backdrop for the main show. In the end, the choice becomes whether the orchestra wants to be left out of the festivities, or have a group of freelancers sit in their chairs—miming for the cameras……

    • Colin Cronin June 17, 2012 at 4:33 pm #

      Thanks for your remarks Yvonne. You make a lot of great points about the realities of the professional music world.

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