Every day this week the 205 national anthems needed for the 2012 Olympics are being recorded in Abbey Road Studios by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, under the baton of the composer Philip Sheppard.
The statistics of this event are, in their way, as impressive as any Olympic one: 205 anthems; 15,000 sheets of music; 51 recording hours and an estimated 1,000 takes. “It’s been a bit of a marathon,” says Sheppard, who appears from the afternoon’s recording session wearing a towel over his shoulder to mop away the sweat. Then he pauses. “Actually, I ran a marathon. That only took four hours.” One senses that these days the LPO are being more precise with their sporting metaphors.
It might seem strange that the Olympic committee would bother: after all, the world is hardly short of Star-Spangled Banners and God Save the Queens. But copyright restrictions mean that neither previous recordings of anthems nor even previous arrangements can be used. So Sheppard has had to re-arrange each one,“keeping the tunes as intact as possible”, so nations stay happy, but not so intact that lawyers become unhappy.
They are being recorded in alphabetical order, from Afghanistan (“jolly”, apparently) to Zimbabwe.
via The Times