The heritage of the isles was on display in the London Olympics Opening Ceremony – traditional music like God Save the Queen, the unofficial national anthem Jerusalem, and Cwm Rhondda were each sung by multiracial children’s choirs. Abide with Me was sung by Emeli Sandé.
The theme from Chariots of Fire made an appearance with Mr Bean on the electronic keyboard playing the beating pitch that undergirds the strings above. To underline it was a British show Mr Bean hit the ftatulence key at the end.
A Mr Bean dream sequence spliced him into the movie’s running scene on the surf’s edge. It was striking in the clip that all the runners were white, though as you’ll remember from the plot one of them is Jewish. Chariots of Fire is set in the Paris Olympics of 1924; today’s Olympics are far more interracial. As is the UK.
The ceremonies followed the isles from pastoral times through the Industrial Revolution up to today’s society which incorporates peoples from the former colonies of the British Empire. Naturally, the scene from present day London celebrated its multi-racial condition. The montage of music over the scene reminded us that a generation’s music ties the generation together despite the ethnic diversity.
But London of the pastoral era or the Industrial Revolution did not have blacks tending sheep or working as bankers. Yet in the Opening Ceremonies that’s what you saw. The first and second generation immigrants from the British Empire are to a great degree taking on board the heritage of the isles even as they retain their own (and improve the cuisine of the nation). They, too, sing God Save the Queen.
If you watched the ceremonies on NBC you may be thinking, how did I miss Abide with Me? It was sung during the tribute to the victims of the London terrorist bombings which occurred the day after London won its bid for these Olympics. NBC cut the tribute. Today the network is saying its American audience would not have been interested.
I read the Wikipedia entry for the hymn Jerusalem today. Only its the entry for the song And did those feet in ancient time. It was composed by Sir Hubert Parry in 1916 with text from William Blake’s poem of the same title that dates from 1808. Jerusalem later became the songs popular title.
The story of the poem and song follows twists and turns of British history in the 19th and 20th centuries.
In one interpretation “satanic mills” refers to industrial mills displacing traditional mills. In another, endorsed by N. T. Wright, it’s a metaphor for the Church of England.
Parry was asked to set Blake’s poem to music for the purpose of lifting patriotism during the war, a purpose that gave him misgivings. He was delighted when the piece was adopted as the Women’s Rights Hymn.
Parry’s original version scored the first verse for solo soprano — which is how it was performed at the opening ceremonies.