How did you come up with this original idea?
Jean-Philippe Sarcos : The Palais-Royal is a choir and orchestra very interested in the transmission of classical music. In the past, music was essential at all levels of society. Today it has been relegated to something less important, to background music. The Palais-Royal therefore tries to bring it to life everywhere, in universities, for young people who are far from culture or business leaders. We knew Handel’s chorus was inspired by the Champions League anthem and we thought about what to do with it, and then we met Gaultier Durhin, who also had this idea.
Gaultier Durhin : I’m a music video director and I do classical music, baroque, electro, pop, etc. I’m also a big football fan. One day I wondered about the origin of the C1 song and realized that it was an adaptation of a play by Handel written for the coronation of the kings of England in the 18th century.e century. I told myself that there was a similarity between the coronation ceremony, the football ceremony, crowd gathering, a match, the cathedral, the football stadium, and that we could play the original piece in a stadium with a musical competition between instrumentalists and singers. It was a musical and sporting fantasy, and I was lucky enough to find an ensemble to accompany me in this project.
“I also had the chance to go to Tottenham Stadium, and when I talked about Handel and the coronation of the kings of England, you really have the impression that you are in a football cathedral. † Gaultier Durhin
Do you personally follow football or not at all?
GD : I support French clubs in the European Cups, but I mainly follow English football. I am for Tottenham, especially the last seasons. I took the opportunity to take a close look at English football. I also had the chance to go to Tottenham Stadium, and when I talked about Handel and the coronation of the kings of England, you really have the impression that you are in a football cathedral. It should have the same effect in the Camp Nou or the Bernabéu, very straight and close to the field stadiums, which I didn’t feel in the Parc des Princes, and it takes some guts.
JPS : So me, I’m a bit weird, that is, I’m not perfect on all players and on all matches, but one of the greatest pleasures of my life is to play football, very often, with friends. It’s great to have fun with, just like music. There’s an adrenaline rush, there’s excitement, it’s fantastic. I’m a bad spectator, but a great football fan.
How was the filming? The last video shows some fine technical qualities and a cult face…
GD : We shot it in one night, it was very fast, at the Stade Robert-Bobin, a stadium with a rather fascinating architecture. We were welcomed like royalty and the weather was beautiful. All the football gestures are the musicians, and two or three elements were good football players. We organized the teams by the duel between the instrumentalists on the one hand and the singers on the other, hence the title “Classico”, with the lower voices behind and the higher voices in front. Then the question quickly arose from the referee and the conductor. It works very well: there is a pretty obvious affair between the master of ceremonies and the master of the match, and Jean-Philippe Sarcos immediately lent himself to the game and above all, he really has the head of Pierluigi Collina, or of Anthony Taylor, the bald man who is a little stern yet very likeable at the same time, there’s something weird about this image.
JPS : It made me happy to pay tribute to Pierluigi Collina, someone I admire greatly and who is a sacred monster. I had seen some matches that he whistles, and I kind of remembered that from videos on YouTube, to inspire me. The conductor, he coordinates everyone, he sets the pace, he notices the mistakes. I give conferences in companies, to explain the relationship between the conductor and the manager, and I often refer to arbitration because I think there is a great closeness.
Do you think football is an art and music is a sport?
JPS : I wouldn’t ask myself the question, because we would shrink things by boxing them: It’s a habit of our industrial age. But music also has a sporty aspect. Also in football there is this artistic aspect, especially when you see great players: how does he have this intelligence of movement, of communication with others? If you see a pianist who spends eight hours on his piano, moving his fingers without tendonitis or cramps, that’s the same preparation and stamina. There are many similarities between football and music, and many don’t see it. On the one hand there are football fans, on the other hand there are fans of classical music, and after all no one talks to each other, each group deprives itself of something essential and strong. And this self-censorship is in a sense one of the raison d’être of the Palais-Royal, that is, trying to fight against these communities.
GD : For me, football is an art. When I see what happens on a field, when I see what Neymar does with his feet, what a pianist or a violinist does with his hands, I really think these are two forms of representation. Music is completely a sport, and that’s what I wanted to show in the locker room scene. I have musician friends who have to work constantly, who are in the same situations as top athletes, with the same physical limitations, the same concentration, the same training. A concert is like a football match.
Baroque music is sometimes considered a somewhat sober music. How do you make it attractive to as many people as possible?
JPS : What you call baroque music, I experienced a bit for sport: at school we played football and even rugby on asphalt. I won’t tell you how interesting rugby was, with the tackles, in these circumstances… As a result, it was difficult to enjoy the sport. So what we’re trying to do with the Palais-Royal is precisely to give everyone the atmosphere of a Champions League final at every concert. Every time, let it be something people will remember for a lifetime. This video was a huge joy for us because all the musicians who were there said to themselves that we were rediscovering the essence of this music, that is, the joy of being together, the joy of fighting together, of doing things that add to each other.
GD : Baroque music is very rhythmic, there is something very repetitive, that touches me a lot. I have tried to set the images to this rhythm to give the impression that the ball is circulating. When you look at the ball during a game, it goes tac-tac-tac-tac, something very mechanical is going on.
In addition, on this topic, coaches have already compared their team’s play to musical moves, most notably Klopp. Do you think each team has its own flow?
GD : It would be necessary to take the time to actually study each team. But again, I pretty much agree with what Klopp is saying. Manchester City is a game that is very elegant, meticulous and precise: the ball follows absolutely incredible geometric shapes before arriving in the other area, which I find fascinating. And I see the somewhat heavy metal, nagging side of Liverpool. I see a very nervous Van Dijk shaking his long hair, which he has by the way. And then there might be more jazzy teams playing an impossible game to follow. PSG for example: everyone is playing on their side, and suddenly, by some miracle, the ball comes in a kind of cohesion, fantastic. When I watch a football game, it inspires me with music, I see movement and I imagine an original soundtrack. In addition, I regularly set the comments very low.
“Tony Britten was a fine musician, but he was still not Handel’s genius. † Jean-Philippe Sarcos
And this anthem by the C1 by the way, what do you think?
JPS : It is always embarrassing to criticize what colleagues are doing. But I always prefer the original over the copy. He could have copied something uglier, that’s true. Tony Britten was a good musician, but he was still not Handel’s genius, because there are one or two in a century. What would be nice is that people know it’s Handel, and if you could one day play in a stadium with 500 singers and a big orchestra, it would send shivers down your spine.
GD : I think it’s a very nice cover. It is well dosed, between the show, the solemnity, the community between the players and the audience, it is universal, because sung in several languages, and it remains in the head, it really has everything. Britten’s edit gives it an even more nervous side, and it’s now entrenched: some even spend it at their wedding, it’s part of their lives.
Interview by Valentin Lutz
Photos by Moland Fengkov.