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www.zidao.com Apprentice harmonizer, for sheer fun. Journeywoman writer, for work and pleasure. Starting point was Iowa, current stopping point on this journey is Switzerland, with frequent pauses around the world to watch and listen to the crowd, and occasionally make comments.

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Friday, May 12, 2006

National hymns lack grip

National hymns and anthems (I'm not sure what the difference is; are you?) lack grip: they don't grab you. The only one I've ever heard that came close is the French one, the "Marseillaise", to which you could box if you wanted to. Most of the others are insipid, although the better ones have soaring moments, reminiscent of church spires tacked onto cheap buildings the poor local parish hoped no one would notice.

I'm probably taking a firm stand on this to cover up a personal weakness. I can't remember these songs, despite years of hearing and singing them. Mary Tiegreen, creator of the series, 1001 Reasons to Love . . . kindly pointed out that I muddled my hymns and anthems in my Mother's Day post at GenevaLunch. She could have snapped at me right here, but she's too nice. (Mary, the Internet is a tough place, but hey! we can take it!)

Mary is right, so here then is the apology, the correction and a plea to future songwriters. I sincerely apologize, for I would hate to corrupt future generations of bored singers. Mary's correction: "Julia Ward Howe wrote the Battle Hymn of the Republic, and Francis Scott Key wrote our national anthem. Oh say, can you see? Mine eyes have seen the glory!"

Frankly, I can't imagine how I confused them. I spent much of my childhood singing variations on the battle hymn, those beloved lyrics such as "the coming of the lord, he is coming round the corner in a polka-dotted Ford..."

And now the plea. I have stood in Irish cinemas, filled with smoke since it was legal to puff during a movie at the time, and listened to a watery Gaelic song that inspired no one. I once listened to the Swiss national anthem in the four national languages just because I felt so sorry for the people who had posted this on the Internet - not the stuff for building web site traffic.

I think governments and songwriters have it wrong. Sign an agreement with the Beatles, which will help them get over the loss of their Apple to the other Apple, and write similar snappy lyrics to the tune of "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" or "She Loves You Yeah Yeah Yeah".

I'd probably learn to keep the national anthem and the national hymn straight.

Of course, the next generation might think a Metallica song catchier.


Blogger Vasta said...

Our "Oh Canada" is particularly dreary. I get asked to sing it at various functions, and I'll admit that after my performance, I always leave the stage a little tired. No pep to it at all.

12:19 AM  
Blogger the eternal optimist said...

I suppose national anthems are the victims of decision by committee. Although the Star Spangled Banner was written in 1814, it wasn't adopted as the national anthem until 1931. Why? Don't know. I do know that no one can remember all the complicated verses and that the "land of the free" high notes are really hard to reach if you begin the song in the wrong place. Like so many anthems, it was inspired by war, and unfortunately it has a lot of bombs bursting in air and rockets red glare. Thus, I can certainly see why you would confuse it with the Battle Hymn of the Republic. And I happen to like the tune better on that one. I have a friend who claims to have that particular meloday running through her head all the time. For years, she's been cursed with "mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the lord" over and over and over. I don't know how she maintains a normal life. I once had a BeeGees song going through my head for three days straight and almost lost my mind. It was the song, "You Should Be Dancing." Why? Don't know. But I digress. The British have a nice simple national anthem in "God Save the Queen" which they probably have to change when the queen gives it up to the prince who becomes the king. We American's happened to borrow that melody for our beloved song "My Country 'Tis of Thee." Anyway, the lyrics of The Star Spangled Banner were combined with the melody borrowed from an English drinking song called "To Anacreon in Heaven" which was first performed in 1780 at the Crown and Anchor Tavern in the Strand. (Anacreon was a Greek poet known for his songs celebrating wine and women. Cool!) The Anacreontic Society was a popular gentleman's club in London, and it still exists today:
That's it from here!

5:07 AM  
Blogger whistlestop caboose said...

Wow, morning tea time and I have comments to read where I really learn something. Vasta, you sing! My advice: go the Jimi Hendrix route with The Star Spangled Banner and create a wild version of the Canadian song. Send us a recording! And Mary, I'm off to check out that London Club, although I suspect it might have toned down a bit in the last 200 years.

9:34 AM  

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