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Panel of personalities to judge new Swiss anthem

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Panel of personalities to judge new Swiss anthem
Stamps issued by Swiss post office, showing first verse of national anthem in four languages. Photo: Swiss Post
10:45 CET+01:00
A panel of 30 Swiss personalities has been selected to choose a new national anthem for Switzerland.

The Swiss Public Welfare Society on Thursday unveiled a list of individuals, including musicians, journalists and politicians, with representatives of the country’s four linguistic regions.

The panel is set to judge entries for a new song to replace the current anthem, which many believe to be outdated.

A competition to compose a new tune with fresh lyrics is open to all, with entries accepted until the end of June 2014.

A cash prize of 10,000 francs ($11,000) will go the winner, whose composition will be submitted to the federal government for approval.

Although only officially adopted in 1981, Switzerland’s national anthem was originally set to German words written by Zurich journalist Leonhard Widmer more than 170 years ago.

The music was composed by Alberik Zwyssig, a priest from the canton of Uri, and was first performed back in 1841.

It has subsequently been translated into the three other national languages — French, Italian and Romansh.

It is far from universally known, however, since it has not been a mandatory part of the school curriculum in most cantons.

Oskar Freysinger, a cabinet minister in the canton of Valais who is also a musician and poet, is one of the personalities chosen for the panel.

Freysinger said he hoped for a harmonious new anthem.

“The current one is difficult,” the politician, a member of the Swiss People’s Party, is quoted as saying by 20 Minutes.

“You need to struggle to put the words to the music.”

But Lukas Niederberger, in charge of the competition, said the melody of the existing anthem should be recognizable in the new one.

It should also, he said, reflect the words in the preamble of the Swiss constitution, which speaks of the alliance of Swiss people and cantons “to strengthen liberty, democracy, independence and peace in a spirit of solidarity and openness towards the world”.

Until it was adopted 32 years ago, the current national anthem was overshadowed by another patriotic song — Rufst Du mein Vaterland — used on official occasions with the same music as God Save the Queen.

This reportedly led to confusing moments when the Swiss were honouring visits from British representatives.

Among the concerns raised by critics of the anthem now in use are outdated references in German to the “Fatherland” and religious references to God.

The Official English translation of the first verse is as follows:

When the morning skies grow red,

and over us their radiance shed

Thou, O Lord, appeareth in their light

when the alps glow bright with splendour,

pray to God, to Him surrender

for you feel and understand

that He dwelleth in this land. 

To listen to the anthem in German (and the other national languages) click here.

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