On national anthems and Australia and Switzerland: peas in a pod.

I’m amazed at how similar Australia and Switzerland are. Switzerland has been a party to Western civilisation since the Romans had an interest in it. It’s teensy, it’s landlocked by large countries which are sometimes friends, sometimes enemies. Australia has been a party to Western civilisation since the late 1700s, it’s enormous, it’s sealocked and surrounded by countries which are sometimes friends, sometimes enemies. Oh, and New Zealand.

But they have a lot in common. Switzerland is isolated despite its location. It professes, like Australia, to believe in a fair wage for workers, a principle that makes me happy.

And most recently this. The Swiss are like us. THEY don’t know their national anthem either. To be precise, we had God Save the Queen and the Swiss had their own words set to – God Save the Queen! Even they figured that was pretty weird and they changed the whole thing in 1981, but they picked a baddie and there is movement afoot to do something about that.

Speaking to AFP when the competition [to provide options for a new one] was launched, Pierre Kohler, president of the jury, said of the current anthem: “Nobody knows the words! Anyone who tells you they do is a liar. Or else we manage the first few and afterwards we go ‘la, la, la’.”

Most Australians will know exactly how that feels. I can remember being on stage with a large Australian bridge contingent at the end of a tournament in Indonesia maybe early nineties. At the Victory Dinner there was a band and each country was expected to sing their national anthem. Between us, the Australians didn’t know more than a line or two.

The Sensitive New Age Cowpersons did a brilliant version of how Australians sing Advance Australia Fair. Unfortunately I can’t find it online and I don’t have a way of uploading the audio to this blog.

However, here is their suggested replacement:

I’m curious to hear the Swiss equivalent!

Added later:

My goodness, I had no idea how influential God Save the Queen is as a piece of music. It has been used for many national anthems over history. I’ve lifted this from Wiki:

“God Save The King” was the first song to successfully be used as a national anthem. (The Spanish La Marcha Real and the Dutch, Het Wilhelmus, are older but took longer to become popular. Japan’s anthem Kimigayo has lyrics which are older still, but a more recent melody). Its success prompted a number of other countries to pen similar anthems to help construct a concrete national identity – many of which used the same tune:

The first German national anthem, Heil dir im Siegerkranz, used the melody of “God Save The King”.
The national anthem of Imperial Russia from 1816 to 1833 Molitva russkikh[90]
In Switzerland (Rufst Du, mein Vaterland or Ô monts indépendants, until 1961).
“God Save The King” was used as the national anthem of the Kingdom of Hawaii before 1860
E Ola Ke Alii Ke Akua, from 1860 to 1886 the national anthem of Hawaii, was set to the same melody.
The American patriotic hymn “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee”, the lyrics of which were written by Samuel Francis Smith in 1831. The song is often quoted – alongside “Hail, Columbia” – as a de facto national anthem for the United States, before the de jure adoption of “The Star-Spangled Banner” in the 1930s.
Norway‘s royal anthem Kongesangen uses the melody.
The Swedish royal anthem Bevare Gud vår kung between 1805 and 1880, used the melody.
Liechtenstein‘s, anthem Oben am jungen Rhein uses the same melody – so the same tune was therefore played twice before the Euro 96 qualifying match between Northern Ireland and Liechtenstein; likewise when England played Liechtenstein in a Euro 2004 qualifier. (When England plays Northern Ireland, the tune is only played once).
Iceland‘s de facto national anthem in the 19th century was Íslands minni (“To Iceland”, better known as Eldgamla Ísafold), a poem by Bjarni Thorarensen[91] set to the melody of “God Save The King”. This lasted until the current national anthem was adopted, first by popular consent and later by law. The tune remains a popular one in Iceland and many different texts—serious, satirical and comical—have been set to it.
The melody is also used as a hymn tune by Christian churches in various countries. including by the United Methodists of the southern United States, Mexico, and Latin America, among other denominations. “Glory to God on High” is frequently sung to the tune, as is “Since I Have My Retreat” in the Protestant Church of Korea.

The Ren & Stimpy Show uses the tune for the anthem of the “Royal Canadian Kilted Yaksmen”.

In addition, it has been used by a large number of classical composers including Bach, Hayden, Beethoven, Paganini, Debussy, Strauss, Liszt to name a few of the more famous ones.

One wonders why Australia didn’t just change the words and keep the music when they decided to pull away from using England’s.

Personally, much as I love the Sensitive New Age Cowboy’s version, I like the idea of Up There Cazaly as the anthem. It is so very Australian, it’s stirring, we all know it.

I noticed a clip on youtube that has the words and in the background a selection of amazing but typical Aussie Rules marks. There just isn’t a game like it. The others are all for pussies.

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4 thoughts on “On national anthems and Australia and Switzerland: peas in a pod.

  1. Interestingly enough I once went to a dinner in Norway with a large contingent of Norwegian teachers. They sang between courses – apparently quite a traditional thing to do. There were two Australians present and the MC for the evening said, “And in honour of our two Australian guests we will now sing their other national anthem.” The gathering then sang…. Waltzing Matilda.
    Judith Wright once said we shouldn’t try to write the words to a national anthem in the 20thC. I would suggest the same applies now. I personally loathe the current national anthem and can never remember the words.

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    • I don’t mind ours, but I like Judith Wright’s comment all the same. I’ve never understood Waltzing Matilda as an anthem. I think it is reasonable for an anthem to be an anthem, which this clearly is not.

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  2. There was a celebrated occasion during the 80s when the Swedish king and queen were making a state visit to China. Apparently their hosts were unable to track down the Swedish national anthem in time, so the guard of honor played Abba’s “Dancing Queen” instead. The royal couple kept their cool and just did the smiling-and-waving thing.

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