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British music 'mashup' at Olympic closing ceremony

Britain may not dominate the podium at the 2012 Olympics, but it will rule the closing ceremony — an all-British spectacular celebrating the country's music "from Elgar to Adele."
/ Source: The Associated Press

Britain may not dominate the podium at the 2012 Olympics, but it will rule the closing ceremony — an all-British spectacular celebrating the country's music "from Elgar to Adele."

Organizers announced Thursday that the ceremony theme will be "A Symphony of British Music," and will include established and up-and-coming artists performing a jukebox-full of iconic British songs.

"It is, in a sense, the soundtrack of our lives," said film and theater director Stephen Daldry, executive producer of the Olympic and Paralympic opening and closing ceremonies.

The ceremony's artistic director, Kim Gavin, said the Aug. 12 show would be an "elegant mashup of British music" packed with recognizable songs arranged in a symphonic structure.

The London Symphony Orchestra will provide musical backing for the celebration of a century of British popular music that stretches back to the late Edward Elgar, composer of the "Pomp and Circumstance Marches" and other staples of the classical repertoire.

Music director David Arnold said all the music, and all the performers, would be British.

"We go from — without saying we've booked anyone — Elgar to Adele," Arnold said.

The creative team is keeping the names of the musicians involved under wraps, although The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney and the Spice Girls have all been suggested as possible performers.

Olympic officials did not say whether Adele, Britain's hottest musical export of the moment, had been asked to take part. The singer-songwriter's album "21" has spent a year on the charts, winning six Grammys earlier this month, including album of the year. Adele also won two trophies Tuesday at the Brit music awards.

Gavin, who has overseen tours for the band Take That and directed London's 2007 Princess Diana memorial concert, said the London Olympics closing ceremony would be "the biggest after-show party — the show being the sport."

His creative team is experienced at delivering spectacular shows. Arnold's credits include the James Bond films "Casino Royale" and "Quantum of Solace" and the TV series "Sherlock," while designer Es Devlin has created sets for tours by Kanye West, Jay Z and Lady Gaga and lighting designer Patrick Woodroofe has worked with Elton John and the Rolling Stones.

Devlin said the show, which will include 3,500 volunteer performers and hundreds of local schoolchildren, would be a visual extravaganza drawing on icons of British art and design.

The ceremony also will include a Carnival-style segment from the host of the 2016 games, Rio de Janeiro.

Branding of the event suggests London is aiming for a plucky, irreverent tone that makes a contrast to Beijing's 2008 Olympic closer, which was heavy on precision displays of fireworks, acrobatics and dancing.

The "Symphony of British Music" logo adopts a cut-and-paste type font and Union Jack backdrop that evokes the punk era.

While the July 27 Olympic opening ceremony, directed by "Slumdog Millionaire" director Danny Boyle, promises references to Shakespeare's "The Tempest," east London's industrial past, London buses and Britain's health service, the closer's aims sound more straightforward.

Gavin promised a "very colorful visual spectacular, one that will make you feel great walking home."

Some of the difference between the two ceremonies is the result of logistics. While Boyle can spend days preparing the Olympic Stadium for his opener, Gavin said he has 17 hours between the end of sporting events and the start of the final ceremony.

Gavin says he has taken account of the most unpredictable element of all — British weather.

"I'm assuming it will rain," he said. "In the absolute sheeting rain, the lighting can look great."


Jill Lawless can be reached at: