Brexit Party MEPs turn their backs on Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ in protest against EU

2 July 2019, 12:04

By Helena Asprou

Musicians performed the European anthem during the Parliament’s opening ceremony – but Nigel Farage’s party orchestrated a dramatic move of defiance.

Earlier this morning, Brexit MEPs turned their backs on musicians as they performed the EU’s anthem based on ‘Ode to Joy’ from Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in a planned protest against the European Union.

The act of defiance took place in Strasbourg during the opening ceremony of the EU Parliament’s 2019-24 term as members took to their seats.

Musicians performing the unofficial anthem – which was adopted by the Council of Europe in 1972 and later by the EU – included an opera singer and a quartet, but their audience quickly became distracted as Nigel Farage’s party of 26 MEPs carried out the protest.

Penned by Beethoven in 1824, ‘Ode to Joy’ is part of the fourth and final movement of the Romantic composer’s spectacular Ninth Symphony.

The popular melody scores a poem written by German playwright and historian Friedrich Schiller, published in the summer of 1785.

When the symphony was premiered in Vienna on May 7, 1824, it was the first time Beethoven had appeared on stage in 12 years – and owing to his hearing loss, the story goes that one of the soloists had to stop him conducting after the music had ended.

Following the act of defiance by Brexiteers this morning, EU President Antonio Tajani responded with the statement: “You [should] stand for the anthem of another country”, and it has also received backlash from Remainers.

Sports presenter Gary Lineker called the move “childish” and other Twitter users have taken to the platform to express their views:

Speaking out about the protest, Labour MEP Richard Corbett said the Brexiteers “think they’re being clever by standing with their backs to the chair at the opening session.

“[It] looks pathetic and has not impressed anyone... [the move is] simply being rude to our colleagues from other countries”.

During an interview with Sky News, MEP Geoffrey Van Orden added: “When they play that piece of music by Beethoven I sit down as I enjoy any piece of classical music, I don’t stand up for something that purports to be an anthem.”