Meet the world’s newest national anthem – sort of!

Last weekend, I went to a folk music festival in the Swiss town of Aarau. In case you’re wondering, this is what a Swiss folk music festival sounds like:

Yes, that is an accordion cover of Take Me Home, Country Roads.

But amid the accordions, something else happened: the world’s newest national anthem was unveiled. Well, sort of.

For the past two years, Switzerland’s been seeking new words to its anthem, the Swiss Psalm, because the current ones sound too much like a Biblical weather forecast (“When the Alps grow bright with splendour, pray”, goes a typical line). At the folk festival, they announced the winner:

White cross on a red background
Our sign of the country
Freedom, independence, peace
Open to the world in which we live
We strive for justice
Free, those use their freedom
Strong, a country that protects its weakest
White cross on a red background
We sing together as one

I’ll let you decide if those words are an improvement, but here they are being sung for the first time on Swiss TV. I pop up at some point, worryingly!

A leading Swiss charity is now going to try and popularise the words to the point the government feels compelled to adopt them.

The lyrics were written by Werner Widmer, a 62-year-old director of a medical foundation. Here he is in front of a Swiss flag, holding my book!

Werner Widmer, new Swiss anthem contest winner

Werner seemed a really nice man. He entered the anthem contest simply because he wants to inspire people in his country to be better, he told me, before adding that he’d probably donate his 10,000 Swiss franc winnings to Syrian refugees. See, he’s really nice.

Meeting him made me really want to love his anthem, but I can’t deny that I’d have preferred it if the Swiss had gone for something more daring. The song that came third was exactly that. It was written by the people in the photo below, the most important being the woman in traditional dress: Kathrin Ammann Stäfa.

Swiss anthem contest runners up

She created a bizarre new tune that even goes into a minor chord at one point, but the more I hear it, the more I like it. Maybe next time, Switzerland!

If you want to read more of me prattling on about the Swiss contest, I suggest you head to the Suddeutsche Zeitung, one of Germany’s leading papers, which quotes me a lot including calling for a drone strike to destroy all Swiss accordionists. Lesson learned: don’t send out sarcastic tweets in the middle of music festivals!

Bad ways to learn you need a haircut, part one

Alex Marshall on BBC news

Watching yourself on the news!

I was on BBC World News yesterday talking about Switzerland’s ongoing national anthem contest, among other things (over 200 entries received, one oddly in Portuguese, winner to be announced next year).

You can watch it again here if the above photo isn’t enough for you.

Thanks to Philippa for the nice chat, although I wish the hair and make-up department had offered me a restyle as well as putting a lot of foundation on my face!

What rhymes with Toblerone? Switzerland seeks new national anthem

Swiss flag flying in the Alps

Switzerland – the home of time, chocolate and knives everyone owns but never uses – has decided it needs a new national anthem.

The Swiss Psalm, the current tune, is apparently “outdated and uninspiring” and sounds too much like a Biblical weather forecast to be kept any longer.

“When the morning skies grow red…thou O Lord appeareth in the sky,” it starts, before telling everyone to pray whenever the Alps “grow bright with splendour” – quite a burden for anyone living near them.

The Swiss Society for Public Utility, a body that aims to protect national identity, is behind the move and will accept entries from 1 January 2014.

You can enter in any of the country’s four languages: German, French, Italian or Romansch, a language spoken by 60,000 people who live in a few isolated valleys in the country.

Entries are meant to be written to the existing  tune, but they’ll accept new music if you’re particularly talented.

The good news is you don’t have to be Swiss to enter, so come on aspiring song writers, get thinking of a good rhyme for Toblerone, and get entering! You do have to live in Switzerland, but it’s not hard to buy a plane ticket to Zurich is it? And if you win, you’ll get 10,000 Swiss francs so you might even get the air fare back.

The website with all the details is here. It’s not in English, so I’ve  put it through Google Translate for you. Yes, I am amazing.