Why ‘Carousel’ makes many think of soccer

Shankly Gates
The Shankly Gates at Anfield, the home ground of Liverpool FC, feature “You’ll Never Walk Alone” (Andy Nugent)

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s ‘Carousel’, which the Minnesota Orchestra will perform this weekend, contains a song that stirs passion in the hearts of soccer fans far and wide.

When the Minnesota Orchestra performs Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel this weekend, it’s fair to say many in attendance won’t be aware of Carousel’s soccer connections. And this Sunday afternoon in the North West of England, when Liverpool kick off against Manchester United, many of the Liverpool fans singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” may not be aware of the song’s Rodgers and Hammerstein roots.

Let’s call it a nil-nil draw.

In the second act of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel, Nettie Fowler sings “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, and the song is reprised in the final scene.

Rodgers and Hammerstein released their musical in 1945. Fast-forward to the early 1960s, and a Liverpool band (no, not that one), Gerry and the Pacemakers, released a cover version of “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” Although the song failed to chart in the U.S., it became a number-one hit in the U.K. for 1963.

It didn’t take long for fans to begin singing along with the recorded track at Anfield, the home stadium of Liverpool FC. “With the whole Merseybeat thing happening, and all these incredible songs coming out of Liverpool, it was inevitable that people would want to sing along with the local bands,” says MPR News Arts Reporter Euan Kerr. “And ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ by Gerry and the Pacemakers took off.”

The song has remained the anthem for Liverpool fans ever since. Such is the embrace of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” at Liverpool that the phrase is incorporated into the team’s crest and is hewn in iron above the Shankly Gates at Anfield.

“You’ll Never Walk Alone” has so much emotion and appeal, it’s also become the anthem for fans of Glasgow’s Celtic FC, as well as by the supporters of other clubs on mainland Europe.

So why the enduring power of “You’ll Never Walk Alone”?

“The whole question of community is really, really important to soccer supporters in the U.K., and in Europe,” Kerr says. “There’s a marvelous thing about belonging, and the song really underlines that and brings people together.”

Although the precision and beauty of an onstage performance of the song by trained singers cannot be understated, there is an unmatched power that is achieved by a stadium filled with passionate fans.

“Imagine 50,000 people singing in unison,” Kerr says. “It lifts you off your feet. It is just remarkable. The power of a huge crowd singing together cannot be underestimated. And it is a magical experience.”

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