Nearly eight weeks out, and the London Symphony Orchestra has already performed at the opening ceremonies of this summer’s Olympic Games. How can something that is scheduled for July 27th, 2012, already have happened? The LSO, apparently under great protest from its musicians and opening ceremonies artistic director Danny Boyle, recently pre-recorded their performance and will fake it and play the tape on the actual day of the opening ceremonies.
The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Locog) made the decision, citing Britain’s unpredictable weather and less-than-stellar acoustics at the stadium as the primary reasons. “This is standard practice for an event of this scale,” a spokesperson said in a statement, “and the performers have no issue with it.”
Except they do. As one LSO musician anonymously told London’s Daily Mail yesterday, “The LSO is one of the best orchestras in the world and we’re being asked to mime in front of a global audience of billions.”
Under extreme circumstances, I don’t have a problem with musicians miming their performances. In 2009, at the inauguration of President Obama, temperatures were in the mid-20s with wind chills hovering in the teens, so cellist Yo-Yo Ma, violinist Itzhak Perlman, pianist Gabriella Montero and clarinettist Anthony McGill mimed their performance. Some people freaked out. Most reasonable people understood that the delicate instruments simply would not function in that extreme cold. (Can you imagine the vapor from Anthony McGill’s breath freezing inside his clarinet? Possible.)
But this is the middle of summer in London. It won’t be 20 degrees and windy. The worst that could happen is a little rain. They make covers for those sorts of things. This decision seems arbitrary and the musicians are right to complain. Hell, they just played Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring outdoors in Trafalgar Square. It can be done.
Speaking out against the decision is the beginning. But I think the musicians should continue their protest until Locog reverses course and lets the LSO play live. And if Locog refuses? Simple: halfway through their mime job, in front of a television audience of billions of people, the musicians of the LSO should freeze mid-performance and then set their instruments in their laps as the canned music plays on.
If there is one bright spot it’s this: at least the LSO will be miming to a recording of themselves. In the opening ceremonies of the summer games in Sydney in 2000, the Sydney Symphony mimed its performance to a recording of the rival Melbourne Symphony. Ouch.