Zadok the Champ

The origin of the anthem of the European soccer Champions League.

As I’m sure you know, tonight is the final of the European real football (soccer) Champions League club competition. It’s between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, and is taking place for some UEFA reason in Wembley, London. I’m rooting for Borussia, partly on general underdog grounds – Dortmund is a gritty Ruhr rustbelt city, without Munich’s glamour or whiffy history -, partly because they knocked out my home team Malaga. It’s always a consolation to lose to the champ.

The anthem of the competition is a surprisingly successful 30-year-old piece of skilled hackwork by British composer Tony Britten (h/t Sam Borden of the NYT/IHT).

Here it is at the start of an earlier game between Borussia and Barcelona:

Since you can’t hear it very well against the generic crowd noise, here’s the anthem performed by a proper orchestra and choir:

If it sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because Britten reworked Handel’s magnificent anthem Zadok the Priest. It’s known in Britain as the Coronation Anthem, and here it is at Westminster Abbey on Maundy Thursday.

Great art lives because people want to steal and reuse it. Museum shops not monographs are where collections reenter the culture. If I were famous, I’d like my monument to rip off Francois Roubiliac’s sparkling tribute to Handel – fat dumpy German guy and immortal musician – in Westminster Abbey:
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 08: A statue of composer George Frideric Handel sits above Poets Corner, Westminster Abbey on April 8, 2009 in London. Handel, who died 250 years ago this Tuesday the 14th April, 1759, will be remembered in a special concert at the Abbey where he is buried. Handel's fame was so great at the time of his death that his funeral at the Abbey attracted a crowd of 3000 mourners. He wrote his celebrated Coronation Anthems for the crowning of George II in 1727. Zadok the Priest, the most famous of the anthems, has been sung at every coronation since.  (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Author: James Wimberley

James Wimberley (b. 1946, an Englishman raised in the Channel Islands. three adult children) is a former career international bureaucrat with the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. His main achievements there were the Lisbon Convention on recognition of qualifications and the Kosovo law on school education. He retired in 2006 to a little white house in Andalucia, His first wife Patricia Morris died in 2009 after a long illness. He remarried in 2011. to the former Brazilian TV actress Lu Mendonça. The cat overlords are now three. I suppose I've been invited to join real scholars on the list because my skills, acquired in a decade of technical assistance work in eastern Europe, include being able to ask faux-naïf questions like the exotic Persians and Chinese of eighteenth-century philosophical fiction. So I'm quite comfortable in the role of country-cousin blogger with a European perspective. The other specialised skill I learnt was making toasts with a moral in the course of drunken Caucasian banquets. I'm open to expenses-paid offers to retell Noah the great Armenian and Columbus, the orange, and university reform in Georgia. James Wimberley's occasional publications on the web

9 thoughts on “Zadok the Champ”

  1. James, it’at Wembley because this year marks the 150th anniversary of the FA, the oldest one going, not to mentio it the fact that the game was codified in England.

    1. And please excuse the typos above, FF for android doesn’t like this comment form very much

    2. Which justifies making 50,000 German fans travel to London?
      The top seven clubs in European competition over 25 years all come from just four countries, England, Germany, Italy, and Spain. Optioning a stadium in all four countries for the end of May (when the national leagues are over) would more or less guarantee that at least one body of fans would stay in their own country.

      1. We do the same thing with our Superbowl: the location is set, and even if the tickets weren’t prohibitively expensive, the travel costs (on two weeks notice to a city crowded jammed to the gills for the hoopla, no less) would kill the ordinary fans’ ability to attend. Which is just fine for the corporadoes who actually do attend.

        Another way that baseball is superior to football.

    1. On what planet do you live? This is a big deal for a lot of the world and especially Europeans. Not World Cup big. But big nonetheless.

    2. The Champions League Final is Europe’s Superbowl, the culmination of the most prestigious football (soccer to you) club competition in the world (with respect to Latin American’s Copa Del Oro).

      It is one of those few European events that actually transcends national boundaries (i.e. it is beamed across Europe and the World for football enthusiasts) and has a massive TV audience – given watchers in Japan, Africa, South America and China, it must have a bigger TV audience than the Superbowl.

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