Music has an important place in many people’s lives, particularly listening to music and hearing it all around us. Most people also make music in some way, from singing along to our favourite song to playing an instrument or even creating something new. One of the most enjoyable aspects of this music making is doing it with other people, formally or informally. This communal act seems to be an important part of the communication and empathy between humans.
Nowhere is this more evident than when people sing together at large scale sporting events, and we’ve seen this in all its glory during the recent Euro 2022 football tournament when music was so prevalent, especially in the joyous celebrations at the end of games.
Having been heavily into football for most of my life, I can’t remember seeing players do so much singing with the fans as happened in this tournament. At the end of the final, when scorer of the winning goal, Chloe Kelly, felt compelled to break away from a TV interview to go and sing Sweet Caroline with her Lioness teammates and the crowd, it said everything about the way music represents the height of our emotions and a way we instinctively connect with other people in the moment.
"We’ve seen this in all its glory during the recent Euro 2022 football tournament when music was so prevalent, especially in the joyous celebrations at the end of games"
This reminded me of a similar experience not long ago when I attended a Premier League football match in the East Midlands and found myself seated near a group of extremely vocal fans who had coalesced around a man with a large drum. From the beginning to the end of the match, a succession of rhythms was pounded out by the drummer, a repertoire of proud, defiant, witty and sometimes abusive songs and phrases which were all known and sung heartily by the fans. It was part of the soundtrack of the game, something without which the character of football, and indeed most live sport, would be diminished.
What struck me was the way these football fans were so confident about making music together. I suspect few of them would consider themselves musicians, but all felt the need to contribute to something musical alongside people they largely don’t know. But more than that, it was the spontaneity and interaction that most impressed me. Whilst the succession of songs and rhythms were sometimes sparked by the action on the pitch or by songs emanating from opposing fans, there were moments when individual people would shout the beginning of a phrase to initiate the next song. The drummer would point his stick towards that person, pick up on the rhythm, then point back to the initiator for another phrase of the song until it merged into a full version with everyone. This wasn’t musical anarchy, it was a curated, interactive playlist!
"It [music] was part of the soundtrack of the game, something without which the character of football, and indeed most live sport, would be diminished"
It made me think that whilst this raucous occasion was a long way from my professional life with Orchestras Live, there were in fact many similarities with the kind of work we produce which uses music to inspire, give voice to people and bring communities together. The call and response between a leader and a group of motivated people; the inclusion of everyone in the space to take part on their own terms; the humour and camaraderie of making something representing shared values; and the sheer joy of expressing emotions in a collective ‘performance’.
It all confirmed to me that wherever you go and wherever you look, music is in us all and has the power to bring us together.