The Rugby World Cup starts on Friday and during the next seven weeks we will hear 20 national anthems sung more than once each. Let's hope that they will be properly sung.
You have all heard them badly sung. Recently when the Springboks were capped. there was a fellow with a guitar in a funny hat who did not know the words. There was an awful one in France who knew the words but not the tune. For the Wellington Test this year the South African anthem was meaninglessly uttered. And it such a beautiful anthem, full of history and hope, unique in its five languages suited to the land of diversity. It deserved better.
In America they manufacture clips of badly sung Star Spangled Banner, worst of which was Christina Aguilera at the Super Bowl this year, an awful howl of a thing which she seemed pleased with. In all of the three South African manglings and the 10 USA bunglings there was one thing in common - they were sung by an individual, which is not what an anthem is meant for.
It is the people song/hymn for the people to sing. Some are prayers - like those of South Africa, England and New Zealand. Some are calls to arms like the Marseillaise or Argentina's Himno Nacional Argentino or Ireland's Soldier's Song or even Flower of Scotland. Some praise the country as Australians and Welsh do, swelling with pride. They are for people to sing.
The singer is there to get the people singing. The anthem is not a gig or a yodel or a croon or an operatic aria. It is community singing, stirring feelings of patriotic fervour - people sing into listen to it.
At the World Cup it seems that New Zealand will be led by individuals but the rest will have choirs to lead their people. Choirs are far safer because there is less chance of something going wrong and in fact better as they are more likely to get people singing, which is the object of the exercise.
Richard Cock is a celebrated musician. His work is varied but a lot of it is choral training and conducting.
He has this to say: "I don't know what the rules are about singing the national anthem, but I know from experience that some things work better than others. Last night I sang it with 150 schoolkids and it was brilliant. ALWAYS a large group of kids is stirring and they sing with a fervour that no pop singer can match. Very often the pop singers want to turn it into a pop song which is hideous and often wrong. The kids know it well, and DO it well.
"Over the years I have tough it formally to thousands of people, and a big crowd singing it is always fabulous.
"And it is important.
The sight of the Springboks sitting, caps on and silent at the anthem performance was not edifying. They and the audience should had been up, alert, heads back, mouths open and singing with pride - as happened in Port Elizabeth at the Test when New Zealand played.
The 20 Anthems
Argentina: Himno Nacional Argentino, composed and adopted in 1813
Australia: Advance, Australia Fair, composed in 1878 and adopted in 1984
Canada: O Canada, written and adopted in 1880 and translated from French in 1906.
England: God Save the Queen, composer and date of composition unknown but first performed, it is believed, in 1745. It has never been adopted officially as the national anthem.
Fiji: God, Bless Fiji words composed in 1970 and put to a 1911 hymn tune.
France: La Marseillaise, written and composed for the Army of the Rhine in 1792 and adopted as the national anthem in 1795.
Georgia: Tavisupleba (Freedom) written and adopted in 2004 and put to operatic music composed in the first half of the 20th century.
Ireland: Amhrán na bhFiann (The Soldiers' Song) composed in 1907 and adopted in the Republic of Ireland in 1924. It is not sung in Northern Ireland's and sop is often replaced at rugby matches by Ireland's Call which was commissioned by the Irish Rugby Union, composed and brought into use in 1995.
Italy: Inno di Mameli (Mameli's Hymn), composed in 1847 by Goffredo Mameli and adopted in 1946.
Japan: Kimigayo (The Reign of His Majesty) an ancient poem put to music in the 19th century.
Namibia: Namibia, Land of the Brave, composed and adopted in n 1991
New Zealand: God, Defend New Zealand, written in 1878 and adopted as the national anthem in 1977 along with God Save the Queen. It is sung in Maori and English.
Romania: Desteapta-te, române (Wake Up, Romanian), written in the mid-19th century and adopted after 1989's push for freedom.
Russia: Patrioticheskaya Pesnya (A Patriotic Song), adopted in 1990 and confirmed in 1993
Samoa: The Banner of Freedom, adopted in 1962
Scotland: O Flower of Scotland, composed by the Corrys in 1967 and adopted by the Rugby Union in 1990 after protests at the 1988 Calcutta Cup match against the use of the official anthem, God, Save the Queen.
South Africa: Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika (God, Bless Africa). It is in five languages and combines two anthems - Nkosi, written as a hymn in 1897, and Die Stem, written in the 1920s with English words added by Jeanne Rudolph who rearranged the music. It came into effect in 1997.
Tonga: Ko e fasi 'o e tu'i 'o e 'Otu Tonga (The Song of the King of the Tonga Islands), written in 1874.
USA: The Star Spangled Banner, written in 1814 and adopted in 1931.
Wales: Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (Land of my Fathers, written in 1856 and an anthem by tradition and not decree.
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