Public select potential Swiss national anthem

The Swiss could soon be singing a new anthem after the public voted online to choose the composition they would like to see replace the current one.

Public select potential Swiss national anthem
Photo: Janek Skarzynski/AFP

The winning song – whose English translation is ‘Hoisted up there in the wind, our red and white flag’ – was composed by Werner Widmer from Zollikerberg, in the canton of Zurich.

It triumphed over two other finalists in an online vote whose outcome was announced on Saturday during SRF television show Potzmusig.

The final three were performed live by choirs as part of a national music festival in Aarau, in the canton of Aargau.

The result concludes the competition that was launched at the beginning of last year by the Swiss Society for Public Welfare, who wished to replace the current national anthem, known as the Swiss Psalm, which is often criticized for its overly religious lyrics.

The contest drew over 200 submissions, whittled down by a jury to a final seven, which were translated into all four national languages and recorded by a choir.

The public then voted online to choose the final three tunes, before the winner was selected by a further online vote.

Under the rules of the competition, lyricists were required to take inspiration from 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.

As for the tune, many of the entries – including the winning composition – drew on the melody of the current anthem which, unlike its lyrics, is considered beautiful.

Composed by Alberik Zwyssig back in 1841, the so-called Swiss Psalm is likened by critics to a weather forecast crossed with a religious hymn, given its repeated references to God and alpine vistas.

The song has only been the country's official anthem since 1981, when it replaced another anthem set, rather confusingly, to the tune of Britain's God Save The Queen.

Speaking to AFP when the competition was launched, Pierre Kohler, president of the jury, said of the current anthem: “Nobody knows the words! Anyone who tells you they do is a liar. Or else we manage the first few and afterwards we go 'la, la, la'.”

“We don't take issue with the tune, which is quite beautiful,” said Jean-Daniel Gerber, chairman of the Swiss Society for Public Welfare.

“The problem is the lyrics. The author had in mind a psalm, not a national anthem. As a psalm, you have to admit that it's very good. We have no qualms with it as a psalm, just as an anthem.”

Although Werner Widmer’s new composition has the public’s support, it will ultimately be up to the federal government to decide if it should replace the Swiss Psalm as the new Swiss national anthem – or indeed if Switzerland needs a new anthem at all.

Watch the winning entry performed here.

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Thuringia premier calls for new German national anthem

Should Germany pick a new national anthem? That was the call on Thursday from the state premier of Thuringia. His comments sparked a political spat.

Thuringia premier calls for new German national anthem
The music for the German national anthem. Photo: DPA

Bodo Ramelow, who is the state premier of Thuringia, said many Germans could not identify with the current anthem, Deutschlandlied or Song of Germany, which was composed by Joseph Haydn in 1797.

Ramelow, who belongs to the Left party (Die Linke) said now was a good time to change the anthem, since the country will mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall this year, which led to German reunification the following year in 1990.

SEE ALSO: Should Germany get rid of the world Fatherland from its anthem?

In an interview with the Rheinische Post where he discussed a variety of issues, Ramelow said many Germans from the former communist east did not join in the singing of the current anthem, even 30 years after reunification with the west.

He added: “I would like us to have a collective national anthem. This wish has unfortunately only ever caused an outcry of indignation.”

Ramelow said he himself sings along to the anthem in its modern form but says it still brings to his mind images of the “Nazi marches from 1933 to 1945”.

He suggested the country could find a new “catchy” text “that everybody can identify with and say: 'That is mine.'”

The German national anthem as it is now sung consists of the third verse of the Deutschlandlied by 19th-century poet August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben. The verse begins with the words “Unity and justice and freedom for the German fatherland.”

The Nazis sang only the first verse of the text, which began with: “Germany, Germany above all, above all in the world.”

However, Ramelow's call provoked a strong reaction. 

CSU Secretary General Markus Blume said: “Hands off our national anthem,” the Rheinische Post reported.

“If Mr Ramelow of the Left Party's SED (the Socialist Unity Party of the former East Germany) successors has a problem with unity and justice and freedom, then he should reconsider his attitude, but not change our national anthem,” he added.

The premier of Saxony, Michael Kretschmer (CDU), also didn't share Ramelow's view. “I associate it with the peaceful revolution, Helmut Kohl and German unity,” he wrote on Twitter. “The anthem stands for the eventful history of Germany and should be preserved.”

Meanwhile, the satirist and television presenter Jan Böhmermann said he had an idea on the back of the Thuringian premier's wish.

On Twitter Böhmermann proposed that the German broadcaster ZDF run a national anthem competition.

Call for gender-neutral anthem

Last year Kristin Rose-Möhring, equality commissioner in the Federal Family Ministry, said it was high time that Germany changed the wording of its national anthem to make it more gender equal.

The word Vaterland (fatherland) should be replaced by Heimatland (home land) and the word brüderlich (brotherly) should be replaced by couragiert (courageous), she suggested in an internal government letter seen by German newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

“Why don't we make our national anthem, das Deutschlandlied, gender equal? Rose-Möhring reportedly wrote. “It wouldn't really hurt and it would befit the recent establishment of a ministry for building and the homeland.”