'Hold On': now rugby league gets to grips with classical music

The only music that Leeds rugby league fans have been accustomed to in recent years is the occasional rendition of Tina Turner's "Simply the Best" and a tuneless chorus of "Barmy Army" from the terraces.

But times are changing. At Leeds Town Hall this weekend, fans will be treated to the premiere of the Leeds Rhinos' new anthem, the first classical composition to be written for a rugby league team.

Composed by Carl Davis, the Bafta-winning TV and film theme composer, the seven-minute piece includes musical representations of tackles ("aggressive with a lot of tension and very active," says Davis), tries and the sport's 10-yard rule. It even transmutes the Rhinos' fans favourite terrace chant into a section of classical music.

The piece, entitled "Hold On", shows rugby league is no longer about meat pies and cold terraces, says the Rhinos' chief executive, Gary Hetherington. "The idea of classical music at what most people see as a working-class sport might seem strange at first. But the profile of our crowd is changing. It is partly because of sponsorship and companies renting private boxes to entertain important clients, and because rugby league is appealing these days to a much wider audience." Davis, who had a long association with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, is best known for film and TV music such as his Emmy-winning theme tune for The World at War and the Bafta-winning music for The French Lieutenant's Woman.

He spent a day at the Rhinos' Headingley ground to prepare himself for the commission. He was struck by the sense of theatre as Leeds beat Salford City Reds, and was much taken by his walk from the changing room to the centre of the pitch via a "dark, long tunnel". It is a "great, triumphant moment" when the players finally face the pitch, he said.

"I found [the match] was full of music. There was continuous playing from a small jazz band high in the stands, singing and rhythmic shouting from the fans and a high degree of almost balletic movement during the game. It was also an incredible finale [which befitted] the ballet stage.

"I don't think I have written anything more easily because the stimulus was so great."

The title "Hold On" draws on the "steadfastness of spirit needed by the players", as in Kipling's immortal lines from "If".

"And so hold on when there is nothing in you/ Except the will which says to them, 'Hold on'."

It also relates to something more prosaic: rugby players' habit of holding on to each other. "Every photo I've seen [of the player] they are holding on to each other," Davis says.

The idea came from Matthew Simms, Leeds council's principal music officer, who asked Davis for "something like the opening of the Superman film theme" to commemorate the Super League and the World Club Challenge winning team.

"The idea is that the opening fanfare is the 'hook' which will stick in everyone's minds and the fans can recognise instantly," Mr Simms says. "The middle section could be adapted for a song and we hope the supporters will put their own words to it which they can sing from the terraces."

Kevin Sinfield, the team captain and Super League top-scorer last season seemed unperturbed by the suggestion that his team's performances would not be out of place on the ballet stage: "The players all think it's a great idea," he said.

Davis has not ruled out further sporting commissions. "There's always the Olympics in 2012," he said.

The town hall premiere of "Hold On" is at 7.30pm tomorrow. It will be played for the first time at a match in the Boxing Day derby againstBradford Bulls.

Scores to match the sporting mood

By Karl Mansfield

* The Welsh classical singer Katherine Jenkins has a deal with the Welsh Rugby Union to sing at all Wales's rugby matches. She has sung alongside Aled Jones and Bryn Terfel.

* The Three Tenors, Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras, staged their first concert at the Italia 90 World Cup football finals.

* Queens Park Rangers have chosen a song written by the British classical composer Michael Nyman to welcome the team onto the pitch at their home ground, Loftus Road. Nyman is a long-term fan of the west London team.

* Amici Forever, a five-strong classical group, sang the theme to the BBC's Olympic coverage. "Eternal Flame" was released in August last year. The group - Geoff Sewell, tenor, Jo Appleby, soprano, Tsakane Valentine, soprano, David Habbin, tenor, and Nick Garrett, bass baritone - also performed at the FA Cup final in May and at the English rugby union challenge cup final.

* The film Chariots of Fire was propelled by a powerful score by Vangelis. The 1981 film tells the tale of two men and their journey to the 1924 Olympics, tackling nationhood and class.

News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Sport
Thiago Silva pulls Arjen Robben back to concede a penalty
world cup 2014Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: More misery for hosts as Dutch take third place
News
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
life...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
Voices
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
arts + entsReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice