The games of the XXXI Olympiad get underway today with the opening ceremony in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. As a young boy, I was thrilled by the games – the spectacle, the competition, and as ABC television aptly put it, “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” In recent years the Olympics have suffered a bit with world-wide scandals involving the use of performance enhancing drugs. But, still, there is something about the big stage of the Olympics, the celebration of success and what one hopes is a healthy kind of nationalism as we are proud of our country being represented by excellent athletes.
I’ve never been to an Olympic event but I got close. Musically. In 1996, the Olympics were held in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. As a member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra at the time – and membership in the BSO brought with it membership in the Boston Pops Orchestra – I played on the official soundtrack album of the Atlanta 1996 Olympic games, “Summon the Heroes.” Conducted by John Williams, the Boston Pops Orchestra had recording sessions on January 6, 10 and 13, 1996 of a playlist that included well known Olympic game themes (by John Williams) and other heroic, brass-centric, noble works that are often associated with the Olympics. Here is the tray card with the full track list:
The recording sessions came in the midst of a grueling week of Boston Symphony Orchestra rehearsals and concerts that included Richard Strauss “Eine Alpensinfonie” and we brass players were stretched to our limits. Still, it remains a memorable moment in time for me, my closest personal association with the Olympic games, and “Summon the Heroes” remains one of my favorite recordings from my nearly three decades as a member of the Boston Symphony/Boston Pops Orchestra. “Summon the Heroes” is still available, as a CD or mp3 download. And you can see a performance of that great fanfare with John Williams conducting the Boston Pops Orchestra on the YouTUBE link, below. The low brass section consists of Norman Bolter, Darren Acosta, Phil Swanson and myself on trombone, Chester Schmitz on tuba, and trumpets Tim Morrison, Tom Rolfs, Peter Chapman and Bruce Hall. There are offstage trumpets and trombones as well. Enjoy. To our Olympians: Citius – Altius – Fortius – the motto of the modern Olympic games, swifter – higher – stronger.