National anthem trivia

Here is some trivia about national anthems I found on the internet and from books while I was researching for this week’s post:

Greece’s “Hymn to Liberty” is in fact an 1823 poem written by Dionysios Solomos. It runs to 158 stanzas. Mercifully only the first three and last two are usually played. Uruguay’s national anthem is about 5 minutes. “Oh, Uganda Land of Beauty” runs to a meagre eight bars. All three verses are performed at international football matches.

Under Olympic rules, anthems cannot last longer than 80 seconds.

Sometimes, a little persuasion proved necessary to generate a new national anthem, as was the case in Costa Rica in 1853. The president of Costa Rica at the time, Juan Rafael Mora Porras, wanted to receive them with the national anthem. However, Costa Rica didn’t actually have one. Therefore, the president requested that the director of the Costa Rican National Army orchestra, Manuel María Gutiérrez, compose the music for a national anthem. Gutierrez insisted he knew nothing about musical composition and the president sent soldiers out to apprehend him and he was thrown in jail until he composed an acceptable song. He would only be set free once he had produced the piece of music, which turned out to be three days. The resulting composition was played for the first time in the Presidential Palace on June 11, 1852 and is still the country’s anthem today.

Using the English translations that appear on David Kendall’s national anthem website site, the most frequently-occurring word seems to be “our”, followed by “we”, “land”, “God”, “all”, “you”, “your.

Addressing New Zealand’s unique situation of having two official anthems, “God Save the Queen” is to be played at occasions where a member of the Royal Family is present or loyalty to the crown is stressed, where “God Defend New Zealand” is to be played where the national identity of New Zealand is addressed. There are no regulations as to whether English or Maori language versions are to be performed, and to which order, yet common practice says that if the first verse is sung in Maori, it should be repeated in English.

In Thailand, the anthem is played at 8:00 in the morning and 6:00 in the evening every day, to respect the country and the sovereign. Sometimes the national anthem would come on in the middle of a television broadcast and patriotic images are shown, the anthem is given top priority. In movie theatres, patriotic images are shown between the trailer and main feature, and the royal anthem is played. In all these situations, standing and observing silence is mandated.

Upon adoption of a new anthem in early 2006 by Kazakhstan, a law was passed “obliging everyone to stand and press the palm of their right hand to the left side of their chest when the national anthem is performed in public”

The Andorran national anthem contains the fine line: “I am the only remaining daughter of the Carolingian empire.

Brazil spent a century without one after King Pedro of Brazil whipped up “Himno da Carta” in three and a half hours one September evening in 1822, then performed it himself. But when he became King of Portugal, he took that anthem with him. “Hino Nacional Brasileiro” didn’t come along until 1922.

Liechtenstein is the last survivor of the 343 states that once made up the Holy Roman Empire of German Nations. The national anthem is sung to the same tune as “God Save the Queen.”

Paul Robeson sang a version of the Soviet national anthem in English. Here is part of it:

Through days dark and stormy where Great Lenin led us

Our eyes saw the bright sun of freedom above

and Stalin our Leader with faith in the People,

Inspired us to build up the land that we love.

At Somaliland’s independence on 26 June 1960, the nation’s new wordless national anthem was played. Five days later the new nation merged with the former Italian Somaliland, to become Somalia, and the anthem was scrapped.

Finally here are a few famous gaffes involving national anthems:

Spain demanded an apology after the wrong Spanish National Anthem was played before a Davis Cup Tennis Match in Australia in 2003. The pre-Civil War Republican National Anthem was played for the Spanish team!

Croatia rose to the occasion in their crucial Euro 2008 defeat of England – after an apparent X-rated gaffe by an English opera singer at Wembley.Tony Henry belted out nearly all of Lijepa Nasa Domovino (Our Beautiful Homeland) flawlessly in the pouring rain before the vital Euro 2008 qualifier – despite the ill-mannered booing from some England fans in the 90,000 sell-out Wembley crowd. But instead of singing ‘Mila kuda si planina’ (‘You know my dear how we love your mountains’), he instead sang ‘Mila kura si planina’, which translates as ‘My dear, my penis is a mountain’. Immediately after Henry sung the line, which is written in old-style Croat, players including Vedran Corluka and Luka Modric started grinning. Even the team’s child mascots had a giggle at the gaffe. Croat fan websites have called for the Londoner, who now lives in Inverness, to get a medal for helping the players relax ahead of their 3-2 victory. Some want him made an official mascot for Euro 2008 while an online petition asks the Croatian FA to employ him for the tournament next summer. Aeljka Tomljenovic, from the British- Croatian Society, said: ‘His version didn’t sound like the original but our national anthem is very hard to sing and I don’t envy him because the pronunciation is so difficult.’

Earlier this year Kazakhstan’s shooting team has been left stunned after a comedy national anthem from the film Borat was played at a medal ceremony at championships in Kuwait instead of the real one. The team asked for an apology and the medal ceremony was later rerun. The team’s coach told Kazakh media the organisers had downloaded the parody from the internet by mistake. The song was produced by UK comedian Sacha Baron Cohen for the film, which shows Kazakhs as backward and bigoted.The original Borat movie offended the Kazakh authorities. Footage of Thursday’s original ceremony posted on YouTube  shows gold medallist Maria Dmitrienko listening to the anthem without emotion and finally smiling as it ends. Coach Anvar Yunusmetov told Kazakh news agency Tengrinews that the tournament’s organisers had also got the Serbian national anthem wrong. “Then Maria Dmitrienko’s turn came,” he said. “She got up on to the pedestal and they played a completely different anthem, offensive to Kazakhstan.” The spoof song praises Kazakhstan for its superior potassium exports and for having the cleanest prostitutes in the region. You can see the video here.

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One Response to National anthem trivia

  1. Alberto says:

    The Croatian anecdote is simply great!

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