TORONTO - Creating the official broadcast theme music for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics has been like training for one of the sports: draining yet exhilarating, says composer Stephan Moccio.
"It's been a journey that parallels very much so the journey of an athlete," Moccio, 37, said in a recent interview in his Toronto studio.
"These were 16, 20-hour days, particularly in the last two months. They were gruelling. I was not sleeping - and I loved it.
"It's a gold medal for a musician and composer, absolutely."
Moccio has arranged about 250 different musical snippets for Canada's Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium, to be used during the coverage. They also commissioned his song, "I Believe," recently released to radio. The tune, along with its French-language version, "J'Imagine," are also available at CTVOlympics.ca and RDSolympiques.ca.
Glass Tiger frontman Alan Frew wrote the lyrics to "I Believe," sung in English by prodigious Montreal vocalist Nikki Yanofsky. Quebec recording artist Annie Villeneuve is on the French-language single and a bilingual version.
An EP containing an English, a French and an instrumental version hits stores next Tuesday.
"It's just, like, such a huge deal," said Yanofsky, 15, a two-time 2009 Juno nominee who plans to put "I Believe" on her next album, due out this spring.
"It's like, the Olympics, you know! It was just a very, very nice thing to even be considered for it."
Previous Olympic theme songs have been written by some high-profile musicians. Renowned composer John Williams wrote a memorable melody for the 1984 Games in Los Angeles.
Moccio - a renowned talent who has worked with the likes of Celine Dion, Josh Groban and Sarah Brightman - came up with his 2010 instrumental after being inspired by his teenage memories of the 1988 Calgary Games for which David Foster composed the music.
"It's a melody I held onto for a long time until I had the opportunity to play it for my friend here, Alan," he said, sitting beside Frew at his grand piano. "He was the first to hear it - he really was."
"It was magnificent," added Frew. "He played it and programmed it in the piano, left me alone for a week or so, then he came back and we nursed it along."
The two then took the song to consortium president Keith Pelley, whom Frew had known for many years, and he signed them up.
Since then, Moccio's been holed up in his studio, crafting the tune and the spirited soundtrack to the Games.
"I was locked in this room here for literally I would say 400 days," he said. "I've got over 150 pages of manuscript, handwritten score."
Recorded with several orchestras in Toronto, New York and Los Angeles, "I Believe" begins with Yanofsky singing softly about finding determination on "a lonely path," then explodes with the chorus: "I believe in the power that comes from a world brought together as one ..."
For lyrical inspiration, Frew reflected on his struggles as well as those of his athlete friends, including hockey greats Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Paul Coffey.
"Just thinking about all the years certainly I've put in to my career, thinking about athletes that I've known in my life," said Frew.
"We would chat about dedication and passion and isolation and the drama of sometimes falling flat on your face and having to get back up again and do it and that was my inspiration."
Moccio said Yanofsky's vocals blew away famed American composer William Ross and the Hollywood Film Studio Orchestra, who play on the track.
"They fell in love with Nikki down there, and they've heard it all," he said. "This is an orchestra that has played 'Avatar,' the movie soundtrack. We recorded this at the Fox soundstage where they recorded 'The Sound of Music.'
"It was a real historic experience for us and the players were coming up to us saying how much they loved this girl and little do they know it's our Nikki."