Yet in all seriousness, we’re expected to stand to attention and plead in song to this mythical being to among other things, “defend our Freeland … from the shafts of strife and war”, to “make her praises heard afar” –-journalist Brian Rudman

By Roger Childs

The 2019 Netball and Rugby World Cup Tournaments brought national anthems into sharp focus — and New Zealand’s did not come out well. 

Australian National AnthemThe Diamonds belted out Advance Australia Fair with great gusto before the final of the World Netball Championships, as did the Wallabies before their tests during the year. The Australians always sing as if it means something to them. 

Before the World Cup Rugby final the Springboks sang their wonderful two part national anthem with nationalistic pride, and for the coaches and players it was an emotional experience. 

Similarly the Welsh and French teams put plenty of patriotic fervour into their renditions of Land of My Fathers and La Marseillaise respectively, prior to their quarter-final.

The French anthem is brilliant

French National AnthemA powerful rendition is featured here on Waikanae Watch  give it a burst!  La Marseillaise dates from the revolutionary period in the 1790s. When France under threat of invasion and declared war on Austria, the Mayor of Strasbourg pointed out the need of a marching song for the revolutionary armies. A captain in the engineers, Claude-Joseph Rouget de Lisle, obliged and on 24 April 1792 composed La Marseillaise.

However, because of its revolutionary and martial tone, full acceptance took time. The Convention accepted it, but it was later banned by Napoleon, and again by Louis XVIII in 1815. It was reinstated in 1830, but rejected again by Napoleon III in the 1850s. Finally in 1879 La Marseillaise was set in stone.

I love listening to it, as the performers always sing it with fervent, nationalistic passion. Our anthem by comparison is a dull, meaningless dirge.

Music and words with meaning

US National AnthemWhat are the common factors accounting for the pride in singing national anthems like those of Wales, Scotland, Canada, Australia, South Africa, America and France? The music is stirring and the words have meaning with references to people, land and history. The American national anthem may have a martial tone and kitschy words, but the music instills plenty of hand on heart patriotism.

NZ National AnthemHow about New Zealand? The music is dreary and the words full of religiosity and outdated symbolism. Only the English anthem is worse with its persistent emphasis on God and His obligations to the Queen. 

What we need are meaningful words in both English and Te Reo Maori for all New Zealanders, and a stirring tune which is easy to sing.