In yesterday’s Guardian Charlotte Higgins invited suggestions for the theme tune for London 2012. I just read her note over breakfast, and was surprised to find that among the 145 comments on the website (well, 146 now) noone had suggested what (to me) was the obvious choice: Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. It’s a piece of music that is exactly that – a theme (with lots of inventive variations to play around with), by our greatest 20th century orchestral composer riffing on his great predecessor Purcell (whose tunes live on in stuff from Clockwork Orange to that Levi ad – and currently on stage at the National in Alan Bennett’s The Habit of Art), it’s jaunty and catchy and life-affirming and, obviously, it has that youth thing the Olympics organisers are keen on.
You could do so much with the theatricality of the orchestra, the way each instrument has its own strong character yet when they all play together the music rises so powerfully, with the wonderful industrial strength brass re-entry at the end of the fugue. The second sentence of the narration opens, “There are four teams of players…” It could easily match the success of Nessun Dorma as a sports theme.
I took these photos on Marlborough High Street the other day with my phone. The morning the sign came down, I went into the store to see what was happening to the letters. I was told I was the third person who’d asked for them: “the client” wanted them. Those letters may have a more promising future than the client’s store, due to open soon.