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Over 100 compete in Swiss anthem contest

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Over 100 compete in Swiss anthem contest
Only three percent of Swiss people know all four verses of the current anthem. Photo: Yendor Oz
12:33 CEST+02:00
If you were thinking of entering the competition to find a new Swiss national anthem, it's too late – the deadline is today.

The contest, organized by the Swiss Public Welfare Society, aims to find a new song to replace the current anthem, which they consider to be outdated.

By today’s deadline, six months after the competition officially launched, the organizers have received 116 entries.

According to newspaper NZZ am Sonntag, 70 songs are in German, 40 in French, four in Italian and one in Romansh.

Despite the rules specifying that songs must be in one of the country’s four official languages, one entry was a composition in Portuguese.

Dialects are also against the rules.

“I can’t see a person from Basel singing a national anthem on August 1st in a Zurich dialect,” said Lukas Niederberger, director of the Swiss Public Welfare Society.

According to the rules, the new song should reflect the melody of the existing anthem and incorporate 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”.

A jury will now decide which 10 entries should be shortlisted and presented to the public in spring 2015.

Each of the 10 will be translated into the four official languages and whittled down to three final songs by public telephone vote.

The winning song, whose composer will receive a 10,000 francs ($11,000) cash prize, will then be sent to the federal government which will decide if the country should adopt the song as its new national anthem.

Although only officially adopted in 1981, Switzerland’s current 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.

In 2000 a survey revealed that only three percent of Swiss people were able to sing all four verses of the current anthem, and fewer than a third knew the first verse. 

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