London Philharmonic completes Olympic feat

Jonathan Edwards Jonathan Edwards tried his hand at conducting

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The London Philharmonic Orchestra has finished recording more than 200 national anthems for the Olympic and Paralympic Games next year.

The epic challenge took 52 recording hours at Abbey Road Studios and finished with Zimbabwe on Sunday.

The orchestra had only 10 to 12 minutes to sight read and record each piece.

Olympic gold medallist Jonathan Edwards made a unique contribution to God Save the Queen, playing the last cymbal crash.

"We realised the studio was about the same length as his world record long jump," conductor and composer Philip Sheppard told the BBC News website.

"He also had a go at conducting the orchestra."

Each of the 205 recordings had to have a unique arrangement created for the Olympics, Sheppard explained.

"It's for two reasons, one is artistic - to create a faithful (version) but redesigned with a fresh spin.

"The other reason is legal - you don't want to replicate a previous arrangement."

Geography lesson

Olympic rules dictate that each anthem must be between 60 and 90 seconds, so there is enough time to raise the flag on the winner's podium.

Sheppard said the shortest anthem was Uganda's, at 18 seconds, which he had to extend, while the Uruguayan anthem was the longest at nearly seven minutes ("the equivalent to an overture") and needed a lot of editing.

The orchestra had a world map laid out on the studio floor as there were some places they had not heard of.

"My geography has definitely been sharpened," said Sheppard, who met 45 delegations from various countries in three days to discuss his treatment of the anthems.

"All the delegations appreciated what the orchestra was doing," he said.

Every country will hear its anthem at least twice during the 2012 Olympics and the Paralympics - they will all be played at the welcoming ceremonies for each competing country.

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