Beautiful game and beautiful music

The World Cup, beautiful music, dangerous defenders and recreational drumming – all the meanderings of a lapsed football fan.

It had been a long time since I have watched a football match. The opportunity arose on Saturday 22 October, for me to take myself to the newly refurbished Meadowbank Stadium and watch the mighty F.C. Edinburgh take on the pride of Lanarkshire, Airdrieonians. This is not a football report but to explain why my mind wandered away from football, to music to film and video and prawns. I should explain that the result, despite Airdrieonians equalising in the 47th minute, wasn’t a game that Edinburgh ever looked like they were going to lose. Another reason for shutting down and meandering through the back corridors of this old head, was the accompanying drumming. That, and the predictable goings-on on the pitch meant my mind wandered (a lot).

In the olden days, I used to attend Meadowbank to watch football in an amiable silence marred only by an off or on the ball incident which elicited some response from the crowd. When I say crowd, I mean the few hundred diehards who frequented the stadium of a Saturday afternoon.

Back to the F.C. Edinburgh v Airdrieonians and my meanderings. Like flicking through channels on the TV with a remote control, I move back and forward through years of stored rubbish in my head. Whilst the young footballers attempted to gain the upper hand on their opponents and the young drummers recreate the word Ed-in-burggghhhhh. I stop off at a point many years ago…

Bill Boaden / Concert at the Meadowbank Stadium

For a time, I was a member of the Edinburgh Cine and Video Club. For one Halloween night, many Halloween nights ago, the members were charged with the task of producing a film/video of things that scared us. I had collected a lot of video clips to cut together a kind of ‘pop’ video of scary things  such as heights and prawns, and scariest of all, Dave McPherson scoring an own goal in the 1993 Rangers v Hibernian Scottish League Cup Final at Hampden – a low diving header into the corner of his own net. At the other end of the park this would have been a stunning goal. Thankfully for Mr McPherson, his team scored two goals to cancel out his error. All of this and more were set to the soundtrack of a hauntingly beautiful work by the 17th century Italian composer Lotti, his Crucifixus a8. It was maybe a bit obvious to set ugly, scary images to beautiful music, but I like it and it worked. I managed to enrage one member who walked out, I still don’t know whether it was heights, prawns or Dave McPherson which maddened him.

Crucifixus a 8 by Antonio Lotti available via Naxos

Antonio Lotti was born in 1667, he lived most of his life in Venice, beginning and ending there, his middle years were spent in Germany. The Crucifixus is perhaps his most well-known work. There is some confusing information out there about Antonio Lotti and writings on the composer spending more time, bafflingly, talking of the things he didn’t do and the works he didn’t write, rather than the things he did. Apart from his middle years in which he wrote many secular works, mostly for the theatre, most of his output is devoted to the church and his last 20 years at San Marco in Venice was devoted to his sacred writings.

It is half-time and the score remains 1-1. During the break, as Meadowbank does not have a Tannoy, I read the scores for all the other Scottish football matches played today.

The second half resumes.

A short 12 minutes later my attention was drawn back to the events in Meadowbank, what should be an easy clearance for the Airdrie keeper spun off his glove and into his net. 2 – 1. 

As mentioned, Meadowbank does not have the joy of a Tannoy system. Or if it does, they didn’t inflict it on us during this match.

Football teams around the country use Tannoy systems to play music to usher teams onto the pitch or onto success. The music used could be described as from the sublime to the ridiculous, a cliché well worth trotting out at this point and as this is a blog about football and music, both no stranger to the odd, overused cliché.

Just a short hop from where I sit at my kitchen table writing this, is Easter Road, home of Hibernian F.C. Often heard there is the evocative “Sunshine on Leith” by the Proclaimers. It is unexpectantly moving to hear that song sung there by a near capacity crowd, men, women and children all giving voice to their anthem.

Hibernian’s arch-rivals across the city at Tynecastle park, Heart of Midlothian or as the song says, “H-E–A-R-T-S, if you cannae spell it then here’s what it says, Hearts, Hearts, glorious Hearts”. This song has welcomed teams to Tynecastle for very many years, recorded by Hector Nicol and the Kelvin Country Dance Band. Hector and his band also recorded “Glory, Glory to the Hibees”, for Hibernian F.C., “the Terrors of Tanadice” for Dundee United FC and “Dark blues of Dundee”, for Dundee FC. Hector was prolific in the football song department. St Mirren-supporting Nicol (1920-1985) was a Scottish born singer and composer of football songs, successful and admired as an actor and comedian. His tragic personal life almost prematurely ended his performing career.

150 years of the Black Dyke Mills Band available via Naxos

Leicester City have been marching, or perhaps galloping on, to the Post Horn Gallop. This work by German born cornet virtuoso, Herman Koenig, has been a staple at the King Power Stadium.  Koenig was a composer and designed a cornet which still bears his name. Koenig was well known to London audiences as a member of Louis Jullien’s Drury Lane Orchestra, with which he toured America in 1853.

Themes from The Phantom Menace and Other Film Hits) (Royal Scottish National Orchestra) available via Naxos

For some reason Tottenham Hotspur enter to the portentous Duel of the Fates from “The Phantom Menace”, part of the Star Wars Franchise. 

Strangely, Watford FC and Everton both use the theme from the 60s TV favourite Z-Cars.

Find a version of When The Saints Go Marching In on this album by Louis Armstrong via Naxos

Rather predictably Southampton, known as the Saints march on to “When the Saints, go marching in”.

There are many more.

Things at Meadowbank are coming to an end with the score stuck at 2-1. Airdrie are trying to find a goal to salvage something from a bad day and Edinburgh are defending, somewhat comfortably, with forays into their opponents’ half with the hope of extending their lead. The citizens are happy and drumming to show their delight. Airdrie fans are winding their way home perhaps having given up on a last-minute equaliser. 

With moments to go in the match at Meadowbank, I think perhaps I should concentrate more on what’s happening in front of me but I am distracted by the thought that we are in a World Cup year. I replay some of the golden musical moments of World Cups past. For someone of my years, Scotland’s appearances at World Cups are a distant memory and we are only left with the hope that one day it might happen again, we might just qualify. Not this year though. For those that intend to watch, this year’s controversial World Cup starts on 20 November.

Nessun Dorma available via Naxos

Soon the broadcasting companies will unveil their branding for these shows and music which, in past years, has become famous for introducing World Cup highlights and no doubt this year will do so again. Something will rival Nessun Dorma or The Pavane by Faure.

The pick of the BBC’s theme music over the years was in 1982, when they used from the musical, Cats by Andrew Lloyd Webber, The Jellicle Cat.

West Side Story available via Naxos

For the 1990 opening credits they used Nessun Dorma from Turandot by Puccini.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, in 1994 for the World Cup in America, the BBC chose the Aria America from Leonard Bernstein’s musical West Side Story.

For the 1998 World Cup in France and the last time Scotland appeared, the BBC chose the Pavane by Faure sedate, poised and for some, typically French.

Pavane by Faure available via Naxos

Jump forward one World Cup, to the 2006 finals in Germany and the BBC chose the music of a German born naturalised Englishman, George Fredrich Handel and a chorus from Judas Maccabaeus. 

Judas Maccabaeus by G. F. Handel available via Naxos

Probably one of the biggest add-on events of the World Cups was the concert(s) by the Three Tenors, Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti and Jose Carreras with the conductor, Zubin Mehta. An open-air extravaganza which took place on the eve of the World Cup final in the Baths of Caracalla. This live broadcast event spawned an industry which would continue till their last concert together in 2003. The three sang together in the next World Cups and toured stadia around the world.

Carreras, Domingo, Pavarotti in concert available via Naxos

At Meadowbank Stadium, the 90 minutes have come and gone and we are in extra time. With each attack by the plucky Airdrieonians, they are left dangerously open at the back and in the 95th minute Edinburgh take advantage of the gaps and score a third. And as Kenneth Wolstenholme said 56 years ago at the World Cup at Wembley, “come on ye, F. C. Ed-in-burgghhhhhh!”

No, he didn’t. He famously said, “some people are on the pitch, they think it’s all over. It is now”.

It is over for F. C. Edinburgh, and it is over for Airdrieonians. No one was on the pitch and there was no great surprise at the outcome. The drummers drummed and the players left the pitch to muted applause, and we all wind our merry ways home. Sometimes at football grounds you are sent home to the sound of music, sometimes to the sound of the Tannoy announcing the scores from around the grounds, but on Saturday 22 October at Meadowbank Stadium it is a general hum of quiet conversation.

A lot of the music mentioned is available at our streaming site Naxos Music.

Maybe the next article will be classical composers, singers, musicians, songwriters and Popes who were footballers or avid fans of the game, like Shostakovitch, a lifelong supporter of Zenit Leningrad. Until then, check out these football related albums at Naxos, including an album called “Good Sport! nostalgic music for the armchair athlete”.

Good Sport! available via Naxos
Soundtrack to The Match available via Naxos
45 Minutes of Music on the Subject of Football available via Naxos
Living Football by Hans Zimmer available via Naxos
Bend It Like Beckham original cast album available via Naxos

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.