Beethoven loses after extra rhyme

David Lister
Wednesday 29 May 1996 23:02

As John Major marches with a new boldness against Europe, the BBC is trying to hold Europe together by commissioning strictly non-jingoistic words to accompany the theme music for its coverage of Euro 96.

The Corporation is already facing criticism for choosing a German, well Beethoven, and his "Ode To Joy" from the Ninth Symphony, as the anthem for the European football championships. It has now commissioned a new translation of the German words which is "non-jingoistic and broad-based".

The words to be sung on television every night to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony have been obtained by the Independent and are in the best Eurofile traditions.

John Willan, head of music at BBC Worldwide, commissioned the translation from a journalist, who does not want to be named, after deciding the original words by Schiller sounded stilted and were inappropriate for a football programme. Schiller's verses talk of "daughters of Elysium," a phrase which may not roll trippingly off the tongues of supporters at Wembley.

Mr Willan gave the writer two translations - one of the original Schiller and one a bowdlerised version done by Sir Harry Secombe some years ago. The writer's brief was to adapt them into "non-jingoistic and broad-based verses which relate to the euphoria surrounding a pan-European event".

Mr Willan said yesterday that those making a fuss about the use of Beethoven as a theme for Euro 96 had forgotten that the Ninth Symphony was originally commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Society.

The new words are sung by the BBC Symphony Choir with the music being played by the BBC Concert Orchestra.

'Ode To Joy', Euro 96 style

Sing a song of joy and freedom, sing a song of brotherhood/Stand and cheer and lift your spirit, fell as proud as heroes should/Glorious nations, celebrations, join an ode to joy and peace/Sing with passion, sing with feeling, match the best that others could.

Sing a song of understanding, sing an anthem to the free/Sing a song which has no ending, revel in its poetry/Glorious nations, celebrations, join an ode to joy and peace/Mighty voices ring triumphant round the world in unity.

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