So Zadok the priest, and Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and the Cherethites, and the Pelethites, went down, and caused Solomon to ride upon king David’s mule, and brought him to Gihon. And Zadok the priest took a horn of oil out of the tabernacle, and anointed Solomon. And they blew the trumpet; and all the people said, God save King Solomon. And all the people came up after him, and the people played on flutes, and rejoiced with great joy, so that the earth shook with the sound of them. (1 Kings 1: 38-40)
It is football at its best. Known to excite the hearts of footballers and fans alike, the UEFA Champions League anthem is played at the start of all games in the competition, and is also in all Champions League broadcasts.
Indeed, we all love Champions League football – it’s a league of extraordinary gentlemen,extraordinary games, extraordinary comebacks and it seems extraordinary music. It is football at its best. Memories of Man Utd in 1999, Zidane in 2001, Liverpool in 2005, and even last night’s demolition of Barca by Bayern flood back, sending a pre-match rush down the spine whenever and wherever the anthem is played.
But have you ever wondered what on earth that anthem means? Or where it comes from?
I always believed it was a classical piece of Italian music, sung by The 3 tenors and was guilty of just humming along without any understanding. Yet, I was wrong.
The Champions League anthem is actually an adaptation of Zadok the Priest (written by George Friedrich Handel in the 18th century) one of four coronation anthems – music designed to accompany the crowning of a monarch. Zadok the Priest is the most famous of the four, written for the crowning of King George II & Queen Caroline in 1727. Other Handel coronation anthems are Let Thy Hand Be Strengthened, The King Shall Rejoice, and My Heart Is Inditing and have been performed at every British coronation since that occasion.
The text for all for anthems is found from the King James Bible.
The text for the original Zadok the Priest in particular, can be found in the biblical account of the anointing of King Solomon by Zadok the priest & Nathan the prophet. Music at its best. (1 Kings 15:38-40) especially the words “And they blew the trumpet; and all the people said, God save King Solomon…”
The King Shall Rejoice uses a text from Psalm 21 and Handel sets each of the four sentences and the final Hallelujah as separate musical sections. My Heart is Inditing is an adapted and abridged text using verses from Psalms 45 and Isaiah 49. Psalm 89:13 is used for Let Thy Hand Be Strengthened.
Zadok the Priest was recast into the UEFA anthem in 1992 (when the old European cup was re branded into the current Champions League) by British composer Tony Britten. It is purely an adaptation of the original version and was written by Mr Britten in the three official UEFA languages (English, French & German) and in summary simply says “These are the champions, the masters and this is the main event”
One of the most famous performances was by the blind opera singer Andrea Bocelli, the world’s most talented classical musician in the 2009 Champions League final between ManU & Barca. Bocelli is blind &ironically, his blindness was caused by a football accident (he was hit in the head and suffered a brain hemorrhage) aged 12. Football at its worst.
But from crowning King Solomon BC to crowning kings in post medieval era of enlightenment (18th century) to crowning modern day kings of football, Zadok the priest’s mark has indelibly been passed down.