Chariots of Fire by Vangelis Papathanassiou – Improvised by pianist Charles Manning

“Chariots of Fire (“Titles”)” was composed by Vangelis Papathanassiou for the 1981 British historical sports film of the same name. “Titles” is the opening theme played in this presentation, but is most well-known as “Chariots of Fire.” Starring Ben Cross and Ian Charleston, the award-winning film is based on the true story of two British runners in the 1924 Olympics.

After the film was finished, Vangelis viewed the film only three times before starting to compose the music. For the recording, Vangelis, a Greek electronic composer, used a Yamaha CS-80 synthesizer. He played all the instruments, including synthesizers, acoustic piano, drums and percussion. The music was recorded in his Nemo studio in London. By using mostly electronic music for a period film, Vangelis had begun a new style in film scoring. He dedicated the music to his father, Ulysses Papathanassiou, stating, “My father is a runner, and this is an anthem to him.”

Released as a single, “Chariots of Fire” reached the top at No. 1 on US Billboard Hot 100, and No. 1 on US Billboard 200. The “Titles” track has been used in Track & Field (video game), in films, television shows, and particularly slow-motion segments. As inspirational music for athletes, the song was played during every victory ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. As a celebratory song, it was also used for Steve Jobs, Chairman of Apple, Inc., to introduce the first Macintosh at a 1984 technology demonstration. In this rendition, pianist Charles Manning improvises the hit song “Chariots of Fire.”

Academy Award for Best Original Score (1981), Vangelis, Recipient


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