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Seven finalists picked for Swiss anthem contest

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Seven finalists picked for Swiss anthem contest
Swiss fans sing national anthem before ice hockey game. Photo: AFP
08:20 CET+01:00
Organizers of a competition to compose a new national anthem for Switzerland have announced seven finalists from more than 200 entries.

The Swiss Society for Public Welfare, a non-profit organization, said on Thursday that the finalists were selected by a jury of 18 music experts and writers.

In the coming weeks the seven proposed anthems will be translated into the country’s four national languages (French, German, Italian and Romansh), the society said.

An inter-regional choir will then record the different versions, which will be posted on the web for people to vote on, it said.

The three most popular entries will subject to a further vote by internet and sms between June and September 2015.

A televised final is set to choose the winner on September 12th.

“We are happy that the public has a real choice between several hymns,” Jean-Daniel Gerber, president of the public welfare society said in a news release.

The society has set as a goal the replacement of Switzerland’s current anthem, sometimes known as the “Swiss Psalm”.

Although only officially adopted in 1981, the 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.

Until it was adopted, the 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.

The welfare society is hoping that the anthem can be replaced with something more contemporary.

Among the concerns raised by critics of the song now in use are its outdated references in German to the “Fatherland” and religious references to God.

Among the seven finalists, three of them have kept Zwyssig’s melody, while two have slightly adapted it and two have started from scratch with a new tune.

Under the rules of the competition, songwriters were required to draw on the preamble to Switzerland's updated constitution — approved by the public in a 1999 referendum — which refers to freedom, democracy, solidarity, openness to the world and responsibility towards future generations.

The winning song will be subject to political approval — and likely a national referendum.

To listen to the current national anthem and look at the lyrics, check here.

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