ESPN turns to Utah for World Cup music
ESPN's round-the-clock TV coverage of the 2010 World Cup features an original musical theme that will run throughout all of its highlight shows, promos and match coverage.
With the tournament being played in Africa for the first time, ESPN wanted a composer and studio to write music that would capture the flavor of the continent. So, naturally, the network looked to Utah.
The theme you will hear during ESPN's monthlong soccer coverage was written by Highland composer Lisle Moore. Moore, with the assistance of Salt Lake City's Non-Stop Music, created the grand, inspiring music that melds African voices with a full orchestra.
Moore, a graduate of the Berklee College of Music and a Utah resident since 1994, has written music for TNT's coverage of the NBA, and has worked with ESPN before on golf and tennis coverage. "This is a bigger deal," said the sports buff who calls himself a die-hard Jazz fan. "This is worldwide."
Moore and Non-Stop Music captured what ESPN wanted to convey, said Claude Mitchell, coordinating director of music at ESPN. "We wanted to make sure that there was a definite feel that this was in Africa," Mitchell said. "This is arguably one of the largest sports events in the world, [so we wanted music to] reflect its grandeur."
ESPN, Non-Stop Music and Moore have had a long working relationship, with Moore creating the music for ESPN's coverage of the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
When ESPN contacted him about a year ago, asking for a proposal for 2010 World Cup music, Moore knew the network was looking for more than a traditional score for the event. It wanted a musical reflection of where the tournament was being held, while enticing ESPN viewers to keep watching throughout an entire month of programming. "I had to do a lot of listening on iTunes to see what I was up against," Moore said.
Moore is a jazz pianist and percussionist, so rhythm comes naturally to him. The first idea, which occurred to Moore while he was shooting a basketball in his backyard, was the theme he, Non-Stop vice president and senior producer Judd Maher and the Utah team eventually submitted. And it was the one ESPN accepted.
"It hit the nail on the head," said Maher, who has been with Non-Stop Music since 1988. In 2007, Non-Stop was acquired by Warner Chappell Music, a division of the Warner Music Group. The headquarters of the leading music production company is still in Salt Lake City, and its services have been heard on NBC's "Today" show, syndicated programs such as "Judge Judy," and ABC's coverage of college football.
With the go-ahead from ESPN, Moore composed 16 variations of the theme so the music could be used in multiple ways on TV, such as during the highlights show, promos, and before and after commercial breaks.
With the exception of the African choir, all of the music is performed by Utah musicians. With assistance from Moore, Maher conduced a 60-piece orchestra, with about one-third of the musicians from the Utah Symphony. Moore conducted a 16-voice choir made up of Utah singers to add supplemental voices to the theme.
When Moore needed a 16-voice African choir, he traveled to New York City and hired the Broadway cast of "The Lion King."
The challenge of writing theme music, Moore said, is creating music that is "one statement," while not making the music monotonous. What resulted, Maher said, is a "very powerful sound."
So, if by July 11 soccer fans aren't sick of hearing the music, then the composer hasn't done his job, Moore joked.
How to watch the World Cup
ESPN and ABC hold the rights to broadcast the 2010 World Cup, which begins June 11 and will continue through July 11.
ESPN and ABC hold the rights to broadcast the 2010 World Cup, which begins today and will continue through July 11.