Composer who arranged national anthems receives threats

An online story listing the Top 10 "worst anthems" spread virally, prompting anger in the countries whose songs were criticised. But it wasn't Philip Sheppard that wrote the article.

Adam Sherwin
Monday 30 July 2012 22:00 BST
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Philip Sheppard, the composer of the 250 national anthems for the Games has been threatened by Colombia after the country's anthem was described as one of the 'worst anthems'
Philip Sheppard, the composer of the 250 national anthems for the Games has been threatened by Colombia after the country's anthem was described as one of the 'worst anthems' (Rex Features)

The composer who arranged all 205 National Anthems for the Olympic Games has received threats from Colombia after wrongly being accused of disparaging the country’s battle hymn.

Philip Sheppard researched and scored each of the anthems during a series of epic Abbey Road recording sessions with the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

However Colombia’s anthem, Oh Unfading Glory, was included in an online story listing the Top 10 “worst anthems” which might be heard at medal ceremonies.

The article spread virally, prompting anger in the countries whose songs were criticised. It named Sheppard as the anthems’ arranger, although the views were certainly not his.

It prompted fury in Colombia and Sheppard’s Twitter feed was subject to violent abuse. “I Did Not write that article & disagree totally with the content,” Sheppard was forced to tweet in reply to one South American critic. “Thanks to you I have received threats. Hope you're happy.”

Sheppard told The Independent: “I totally disagreed with everything in the article (published on the Daily Telegraph website) and I’ve had my name removed from it.

“The tweets I’ve had have not made pleasant reading. I’ve had calls from Colombian TV, radio and newspapers. I would never be foolhardy enough to disparage another country’s anthem.”

Sheppard said that Oh Unfading Glory, based on a poem written by former Colombian president Rafael Núñez, was actually one of the most stirring. “I loved it. Some of the best anthems are the revolutionary ones. The operatic overtures are great.”

The offending web article noted that: “Under a law passed in 1995, it is broadcast on all radio and television channels at 6am and 6pm every day. Memorable lyrics include: ‘In agony, the Virgin tears out her hair and, bereft of love, leaves it to hang on a cypress’.”

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Colombia Reports wrote in response to the slight: “During a time of heightened national pride, The Telegraph wisely omitted the drab ‘God Save The Queen’ from the bottom ten.”

Sheppard has warned Team GB’s athletes that he has included the second verse, less well known to some, in his recording of God Save The Queen. He said: “Let’s hope we get to hear it on the podium today. We have also recorded a single-verse version for different events, it’s up to the organisers to choose which one will be heard.”

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