Music at the Olympics | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Music at the Olympics

Organized athletic contests originally held in ancient Greece to celebrate an Olympiad (a period of four years), and revived in Athens in 1896. The running of the modern Olympics is controlled by the International Olympics Committee (IOC).

Olympics. Organized athletic contests originally held in ancient Greece to celebrate an Olympiad (a period of four years), and revived in Athens in 1896. The running of the modern Olympics is controlled by the International Olympics Committee (IOC). Separate Winter Olympics have been held in the same year as the Summer Olympics 1924-92. Each Olympics program must include exhibitions and demonstrations of fine arts in addition to the sporting events; these arts festivals were an important component of the two Olympic events held in Canada by 1991.

Montreal Summer Olympics 1976
The games of the XXI Olympiad were held in Montreal 17-31 Jul 1976, and the city hosted a mammoth arts and culture program beginning in June and lasting throughout July. This potpourri of almost continuous performances and exhibits (many of them free) included presentations by orchestras, chamber ensembles, dance companies, theatrical and opera companies, children's shows, popular music groups, mime artists, and magicians; visual arts, crafts, and sculpture displays (Artisanage, Corridart, and Mosaicart); and two film festivals. It was the first Summer Olympics cultural program for which the IOC permitted a strictly national festival, showcasing only Canadian, and particularly Quebec, talent. With an original budget of $8 million dollars, sponsorship from the Canada Council Touring Office, the provinces (including $3.5 million from Quebec for local groups), and the Olympic Organizing Committee (COJO), the festival, headed by general director Yvon DesRochers, was plagued from its inception by contractual disputes causing the withdrawal of many scheduled participants.

The music for the gala opening (attended by Queen Elizabeth II), and for the closing ceremonies, was composed by Vic Vogel, based on themes by André Mathieu, and recorded on Polydor (2424-124). An exhibit of graphic material and photographs, Music and the Olympic Games, was prepared by Walter Kunstler on musical works in history inspired by the Olympic theme. Kunstler's research was further illustrated by a series of three concerts by the McGill Chamber Orchestra featuring works by Sacchini (a concert performance of the opera L'Olympiade or Le Triomphe de l'Amitié ), Homer and Fauré (each wrote a Hymne to Apollo), Vivaldi, Pergolesi, and Leo (each composed a Sinfonia Olimpiade), excerpts from two works titled L'Olimpiade by J.C. Bach and Pergolesi, the finale of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony with Clarice Carson, Gabrielle Lavigne, Jon Vickers, Joseph Rouleau and the Disciples de Massenet and the MSO Choir under René Lacourse, Brott'sRoyal Tribute, Matton'sL'Escaouette and Mercure's Cantate pour une joie. The original Olympic theme song 'Bienvenue à Montréal,' recorded by René Simard (French 45 Nobel NL-5713, English 45 Nobel NL-5714), was boycotted, and a contest for a new song was held under the charge of Stéphane Venne. The winner, 'Je t'aime' by Christian St-Roch and Jean Robitaille, was recorded by Estelle Sainte-Croix (45 Solo SO-11401).

Events were held at various locations in Montreal, among them PDA, the Expo Theatre at Cité du Havre, Place des Nations (a former Expo 67 site), St-Denis Theatre, Centaur Theatre, and the Saidye Bronfman Centre; and also in Ottawa, Sherbrooke, Kingston, and Quebec City. Other musical performers included the MSO, Hamilton Philharmonic, Quebec Symphony Orchestra, World Youth Orchestra, Orford String Quartet, Canadian Brass,.the Opéra du Québec, Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Guelph Spring Festival (performing the Beggar's Opera), Les Petits Chanteurs du Mont-Royal, the Huggett family, SMCQ, Camerata, Bouchard and Morisset, Claude Savard, William Tritt, Marek Jablonski, Sol, Gino Vanelli, the Irish Rovers, the Mimes Electriques, Phil Nimmons, Moe Koffman, Maynard Ferguson, Blood, Sweat & Tears, the Paul Horn Quintet and Sonny Greenwich, and Cogne-fou.

Calgary Winter Olympics 1988

The Calgary games were preceeded by a five-week Olympics Arts Festival (23 Jan-28 Feb 1988), an extravaganza of diverse performances and exhibitions. Orchestras, dance troupes, choirs, chamber ensembles, rock groups, percussionists, theatre and opera companies, comedians and jugglers, films, literature, poetry, photography, the visual arts, architecture, technology in the arts, Native culture, and special events such as snow sculpting were represented. The chairman of the festival committee was Ron Ghitter, and the manager was Michael Tabbitt. The event highlighted local and Canadian talent, but artists from abroad were also featured, notably the Juilliard String Quartet, the Joffrey Ballet, the Peter Brooks production of La Tragédie de Carmen, the Flying Karamazov Brothers, and the Mikali Chamber Choir (Sweden). The $10-million budget, 70 per cent federally funded, was the largest of any winter Olympics.festival to date. The festival aimed to 'offer the world a magnificent showcase of Canadian talent at a level equal to that of the athletic competitions' (Otto Jelinek, federal sports minister, Toronto Star, 28 Dec 1987). Performances - most were broadcast on CBC radio, and many were televised internationally - were held at the Olympic Saddledome, Jubilee Auditorium, Calgary Centre for the Performing Arts (now EPCOR Centre for the Performing Arts), and the Banff CA. Some events toured nationally before or after the games. The official theme song 'Come Together in Calgary,' first recorded in 1981, was re-recorded in 1988 and incorporated into the film score of Calgary 88: Soon the Glory Begins. The LP Dream on the Horizon: A Tribute to the Olympic Spirit featured Rik Emmet of Triumph, Liona Boyd, and Alex Lifeson of Rush, and was produced by Keith Elshaw (Chartwell WSC-331).

The gala opening of the festival in the Saddledome 23 January featured an Olympic Massed Choir of 700 voices accompanied by the Calgary Philharmonic under Mario Bernardi, Quebec impressionist André-Philippe Gagnon, Anne Murray, Loverboy, skating champion Toller Cranston, and the Canadian Brass. Three works were commissioned for the gala opening: Olympic Jazz Suite for piano and orchestra, composed and performed by Oscar Peterson; pianist David Foster's theme Winter Games; and Howard Cable'sOlympic Fanfare for brass. In addition the last movement of Srul Irving Glick'sThe Hour Has Come was performed. The opening was filmed as a 90-minute CBC special hosted by the computer-generated character Max Headroom (actor Matt Frewer). A second gala concert took place 12 February before the Olympic sporting competitions, and featured Alberta singer k.d. lang. The festival also featured a choral concert conducted by Elmer Iseler, Verdi's Requiem, the Calgary Opera production of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, Mahler's Resurrection Symphony, the Olympic Jazz Band, organist Carlo Curley, Corey and Katia Cerovsek, singers Hei-Kyung Hong, Ian Tyson, Nancy White, John Allen Cameron, and Michel Lemieux, the Calgary Youth Orchestra, Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, NACO, and TS, the Colorado and Franciscan string quartets, the Toronto Children's Chorus, and World Drums. The Esprit Orchestra and SMCQ performed a concert of works commissioned from Walter Boudreau, John Burke, Alan Bell, Alex Pauk, and John Rea.

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