In the summer of 1997, the Sunderland AFC had a brilliant idea. Although football teams have long raced the field at the start of games to the sound of pop music, why not mark the first season at the club’s new home, the Stadium of Light, with something a little different. ?
And so, as the Black Cats came out of the tunnel for the first home game of the season, it was the sound of Prokofiev the dance of the Knights booming through the sound system that welcomed them.
It worked wonderfully, as that opener saw Manchester City defeat 3-1. Sunderland would come third this season before finishing first the following year and being promoted to the Premier League. The choice of music also made its mark off the ground – when Prokofiev‘s Romeo and Juliet ballet toured the area in 1998, members of the public wore red and white stripes (and Sunderland director Peter Reid was reportedly even present).
In 2018 Sunderland ditched Prokofiev as an exit piece … and has since spent the past three seasons desperately trying to escape English football’s third division. All of this tells you that if you want a strong team, play classical music. We asked eleven musicians who are passionate about football to tell us which song they would choose to motivate their teams and their fans…
Jennifer Johnston, mezzo-soprano
It would be quite predictable for me to pick “You’ll Never Walk Alone” for Liverpool, but I’ll cross out and choose something different, a piece that evokes both the color red, LFC of course being known as the Mighty Reds, and the legendary symbol of Liverpool, the liver bird: the last moments of Stravinskyis wonderful Fire Bird. The incredible fanfare, those extraordinary brass chords and the huge thuds of the timpani that sound like the beating of a warrior’s heart would create an atmosphere heralding a future victory, setting the perfect tone.
Julian Lloyd Webber, cellist
Team: Leyton Orient
As the two teams step onto the pitch, the host team should have carefully selected music that is sure to strike fear into the hearts of their opponents. So the current choice of Leyton Orient from Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Taxi could be considered inspired as its harmless inanity flies in the face of any known idea of what a football ‘theme’ should be – the idea was to convince opposing players that they had entered a madhouse. However, recent home form suggests that formula has worn off and a change in tactics is needed. So, I propose this insidiously menacing theme of Shostakovich‘s Leningrad Symphony No.7 – enough to drive anyone crazy!
Rumôn Gamba, driver
With its origins in a group of workers at the Woolwich Arsenal Armament Factory, the Arsenal Football Club (‘The Gunners’) should certainly run out of happiness‘s’ Attack on the Moon Gun’ from its 1936 film score Things to come. Despite the fact that Arsenal won their second FA Cup in the same year as the film, the play has an uplifting and fierce energy that goes hand in hand with unwavering determination and unstoppable momentum until its key victorious conclusion. A minute and 20 seconds of breathless anticipation, enough to set the pulse beating and (in an encouraging sign of things to come) propel Arsenal’s stars to the top of the league once again.
Yolan Da Brown, saxophonist
Team: Newcastle United
Being a Newcastle United fan is an emotional roller coaster at the best of times! But through thick and thin the fans are still there and the vibe at St James’ Park is electric. The piece of music I would choose is Florence AwardSymphony No. 1 of ‘. Going through the tunnel, the musicians have to walk to the third movement – ‘Juba Dance: Allegro‘.
It’s cheerful, fiery and reminds me of the “Going Home” theme of Local hero, our current choice. But also this symphony takes you through different musical textures that tell the story of sorrows and triumphs that we, the Toon Army, continue to go through.
Vasily Petrenko, driver
Team: FC Zenit Saint-Petersburg
Being born in Leningrad – now St. Petersburg – my home team is FC Zenit. And among many classical composers, the one I associate in my mind with the city is Shostakovich.
Shostakovich was a huge fan of the team himself, attended many games and even wrote a ‘grossbuch’ (‘big book’) on football! Shortly after the founding of FC Zenit in 1925, he wrote a football-themed ballet entitled Golden age. There is a specific movement called “football match” which, from the referee’s whistle, describes the difficult game perfectly!
Bob Chilcott, composer
As a former singer and someone who enjoys hearing people sing, I think I would aim to pick a track that could ultimately be sung by fans in one way or another. Short ride in a fast machine through John adams can be a challenge, even for sophisticated Oxford United fans, but I think parts of the first movement of Janáček‘s Sinfonietta might be a good choice. I love these howling and swaggering trumpets and their opening line can be sung by a large crowd and can be very motivating. Go yellows!
Nicky Spence, tenor
Team: Reine du Sud
The perfect piece to reflect the glory of the Queen of the South East Hamish MacCunn‘s The Land of the Mountain and the Flood. Not only does its title resonate with some of the infamously refreshing weather conditions Dumfries and Galloway attract, but the land is located right next to Dumfries’s Whitesands, one of Scotland’s prettiest spots most prone to flooding.
While MacCunn’s work isn’t widely known and so is the team, as soon as you meet him your heart is akin to a long-standing love affair filled with crescendos, tense moments, and love. a strange cadence of surprise. All of this is flanked by the musical presence of the mountain or, in this case, the eerie carcass that is Dumfries’ own Criffel.
Fenella Humphreys, violinist
Team: Brighton & Hove Albion
Brighton & Hove Albion’s song “Sussex by the Sea” is close to being the best football song ever, and I love being at Amex Stadium surrounded by chants. But if I were to replace “Sussex by the Sea”, I would be tempted to introduce the sacrificial dance of Stravinsky‘s Rite of Spring to try to panic the opposition with his brutal rhythmic punches.
Although maybe Malcolm arnold‘s Opening of Sussex is a bit more Brighton – the music is wonderfully quirky, interspersed with fantastic brass bands with chirping strings, woodwinds and percussion, and lush Hollywood moments the team can surrender to. A perfect and cheerful accompaniment to a pint of Harveys, a pie and a field of seagulls.
Alban Gerhardt, cellist
Team: Hertha BSC Berlin
As a hardened and enduring supporter of Hertha BSC Berlin – which won their last title 90 (!) Years ago – I would choose for these unsung heroes Richard strauss‘s Ein Heldenleben (A hero’s life). As they enter the field of the oversized Olympic Stadium, which Adolf Hitler built five years after their last championship and which definitely lacks the atmosphere of a real football field, players need music to push them along. to heroic acts. I would start shortly before the music’s big battle moment, reminding them of what will be needed to never win anything again and heal the hurt souls of their hungry fans.
Rowan pierce soprano
Middlesbrough, the city known for its industry and its steel, has already championed the Neapolitan hit “Funiculì, Funiculà” as a moving anthem. ‘Let’s go let’s go! To the top we go, ”was a fitting sentiment for me in the first decade of my life as I sat in the crowd and sang along. It’s hard to do better, but in my third decade I think I would pick something that reminds of the city’s early days.
Middlesbrough is often referred to as the ‘Child Hercules’ – so replace Hercules with the Hammer Thor and you might just hear the sound of striking anvils ringing in your ears. Verdi‘s Anvil Chorus (from He trovatore) with his strong vocal lines and endless repeated notes of grace could echo both light-footed footballers and fans’ hearts, rising together victorious!
Gábor Takács-Nagy violinist, conductor
Team: Manchester United
I’ve been a Manchester United fan since I was about six or seven. My dad took me to see them play Ferencváros in Budapest, and George Best was on the team – he was the big star. My choice of music for the Red Devils to run on the field would be the first move of Mendelssohn‘s Italian Fourth Symphony.
This music is so energetic that if you played it at Old Trafford it would give the crowd a really positive vibe – it’s full of sparkle and sunshine, like opening a bottle of champagne. Even on a typical English rainy day I still think it would be fantastic.
Which piece would you choose to inspire your team (football or otherwise)? Let us know at email@example.com