The European nation of Switzerland is renowned for being an idealistic country that most embraces both its traditions and innovation compared with others, but it seems as though the former is being replaced by the latter in one crucial case, after the government announced an initiative to find a new national anthem.
Currently, Swiss people proudly listen to the tune and lyrics to “Swiss Psalm”, but in recent years, the ‘lyrics’ part, which has been part of the song since its creation as a ‘patriotic song’ in 1841 (predating the current ‘Federal State’ of Switzerland founded in 1848), will now be replaced on account of being ‘too old-fashioned’.
The original music had been composed by Alberich Zwyssig (although it only became the official national anthem in 1981 (which before then was “Rufst du Mein Vaterland”, set to the same tune as British anthem “God Save The Queen”)), while the current lyrics to “Swiss Psalm” (in 4 different languages) reference God, prayer, mountains and sunshine, deemed as outdated concepts, and as such the government are passing the initiative over to the 8 million citizens of their country, in a contest which will end with the implementation of a new national anthem in 2015.
The competition, running from January-June 2014 and open to ‘all Swiss nationals and foreigners living in Switzerland’, is primarily looking to find new lyrics, although entries are free to be a freshly-composed song if that is their preference.
Swiss government officials, who will have ultimate jurisdiction over the winner, have expressed their desire to see the lyrics carry values of ‘democracy and solidarity’ (and if a different tune, one in which the old song is still ‘recognisable’), with those being the instructions advised to the 25-strong panel (sourced from a variety of fields including the Olympic Games, football, literature, music, and yodelling) and 4 jury presidents (representing the official languages of German, French, Italian, and Romansch), who will decide the 10 initial winners and put them forward to a television vote.
The winner of that second contest will claim the lead prize of SFr10,000 ($10,745, £7,080, €8,095), while those placed 2nd, 3rd, and 4th will earn SFr5,000, SFr3,000, and SFr1,000, although the relatively meagre financial incentive will pale in comparison to the honour that will be earned by having written their country’s national anthem (or coming close, in which case the money would probably become the better prize)…
Lukas Niederberger, the leader of the project who represents the ‘Swiss Society for Public Utility’ (SGG), summarised: “The real problem is above all the text. Officially the anthem is a psalm, a prayer, but of course we have an open society, religiously neutral. We have atheists, no single god, so this anthem is a difficulty. Many people are conservative and the anthem is emotional, but if a composer creates a super song, then we can change the tune too. But that’s a bit difficult for conservative people, so we say the contestants don’t have to change the music.”
The unique approach to finding a new song will be one that the organisers hope will captivate the Swiss nation, but will the public choose wisely when it comes to a reality TV-style decision? Hopefully the seriousness of the situation will avoid any ‘joke votes’…
…whilst non-Europeans should not get this national anthem selection method confused with anything else: