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VIDEO: Chariots of Fire theme rings out across St Andrews in memory of Vangelis

The Oscar-winning Chariots of Fire theme rang out across St Andrews on Friday in tribute to its composer Vangelis.

Former St Andrews Provost Callum MacLeod performed a stirring rendition of the iconic tune on the 27 bells of Holy Trinity Church.

Callum played the Chariots of Fire theme at Holy Tinity Church.
Callum performing the Chariots of Fire theme on the carillon bells at Holy Trinity Church. Picture Kim Cessford/DCTMedia.

He wanted to honour the Greek composer, who died earlier this week, by playing what has become a St Andrews anthem.

Callum says people in St Andrews are proud of their link to the 1981 David Puttnam film, set before the 1924 Olympics.

The opening scene includes a shot of young men running along the town’s West Sands, accompanied by the Chariots of Fire theme.

Vangelis is also well known for Ridley Scott’s science fiction thriller Blade Runner and the Bafta-nominated Missing.

And his death has prompted tributes from across the world.

Chariots of Fire theme is ‘one of St Andrews anthems’

Holy Trinity Church, on South Street, includes a rare set of carillon bells.

Rather than pulling on a rope, players sit at a keyboard, which is connected by wires to the clappers above.

Callum began his rendition just after the clock struck four, to the delight of shoppers in the street below.

He says he often plays the theme from the tower, which dates from 1410.

“It’s one of St Andrews’ anthems due to the film’s connection with the town,” he said.

“I was a student in St Andrews when it was being filmed and an acquaintance of mine was one of the runners.

“They rounded up a lot of student-age men to run along the beach as part of that famous scene.

“They were all told to turn up the next day with a haircut.

“And they were given vests and baggy shorts and were paid quite well for it.”

Cheering in the cinema during the opening scene

Callum said there were emotional scenes in St Andrews’ cinema when the movie made its debut.

“They were filmed running up the beach a few times, thinking ‘we’ll never hear about this again’.

“But it became one of the most famous movies of all time.

“We all went to see it at the cinema and there was a huge cheer when the West Sands appeared.

“It was quite emotional and it took us all a bit by surprise.”

The Hamilton Grand was used as the Carlton Hotel in Chariots of Fire.

Despite the emotion, the students all laughed when the camera panned to what was then the students’ halls of residents, Hamilton Hall – now the privately-owned Hamilton Grand.

“It’s next to the Old Course and is one of the most famous views in the world,” said Callum.

“But in the film St Andrews is masquerading as Broadstairs in Kent, and there was a sign on the building saying Carlton Hotel.”

The Chariots of Fire theme was hailed as innovative and inspirational.

It went to number one in the US after its release.

And it topped the UK charts in 2012 when Mr Bean performed it at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.

Chariots of Fire at 40: St Andrews beach reshoot changed movie history

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