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Is the national anthem at the Olympics maimed by missing notes?

The learned columnist Dominic Lawson has taken a sour sideswipe at God Save the Queen, which has been heard more than ever before at the London Olympics as a result of Team GB’s triumphs. Dominic thinks it is too much of a dirge.

That depends how it is sung and played.

What we have been hearing is an arrangement by Philip Sheppard, recorded in Abbey Road by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. That arrangement lacks a familiar transition.

Could this be the problem?

UPDATE: And here‘s a protest from the Hungarians.

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Comments

  1. crumbleaddict says:

    Corrected comment!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (apologies for typo in first version)

    In addition to the now infamous missing phrase, some of the harmonic choices made in the arrangement are absolutely bizarre…. I find the whole arrangement discombobulating in the extreme.. Why use a version which is so obviously mediocre? Maybe they left the choice/commissioning to someone who doesn’t listen/appreciate the traditional harmonies (which are there for a very good reason!)

    • Well, it’s an arrangement – only that. It’s an arrangement we are not used to hearing, perhaps – and there’s the rub, because there’s comfort in the familiar. Objectively, then, if someone had never heard the National Anthem in its usual arrangement, this would be the norm and what we find comforting would be discomfiting to them. It’s the same with the arrangement to the tune the choir were singing on the beach to symbolise the Welsh nation in the Opening Ceremony: I’m used to the bass echo of “evermore”, which was absent. But as there were no jarring chords a-la Portsmouth Sinfonia, it didn’t get me throwing things at the computer screen.

      The Olympics GSTQ, therefore, isn’t my favourite arrangement, but then as a composer myself (and, of course, an artist), I appreciate new forms even if I don’t necessarily find them subjectively edifying.

    • Its an absolute disgrace,whatever have the olympic commitee used this bastardised version of our national anthem,its an outrage.

  2. I agree – very strange harmonies – and of course the “missing” bit.

  3. Well, it’s only a dirge if played too slowly. Strip away stultifying tradition, look at the what the actual music suggests (rhythms, rate of harmonic change, etc.), and what you have is a spritely little galliard. Sing it to a one-in-the-bar pulse and bring out the implicit hemiolas and it’s really a lot of fun.

    • I am shocked that the people responsible for organising the London Olyimpics have selected a version of the National Anthem which is incorrect. – you dont have to know anything about music to realise, when you hear it played, that the harmony at one point is totally wrong, i.e. the notes are wrong. It really grates at one point. I am amazed that the job was given to someone with only a beginner student level of knowledge of harmony, and that no one subsequently was aware that it was wrong.

  4. NIgel SImeone says:

    The missing quavers are certainly missed, but I’m completely with crumbleaddict on the real problem here (and for that matter with the USA anthem as well): the utterly perverse, borderline incompetent, harmonizations by Philip Sheppard.

  5. mark winn says:

    I’m going to play it to my ‘A’ level students in a few weeks:

    1) To see if they spot the missing quavers
    2) To see if they spot the ‘wrong’ harmonies
    3) To see how long it takes them to come up with a better version

    So, although Mr. Sheppard has completely screwed it up for our athletes, in a way I am grateful to him for providing me with some topical teaching material!!…I may also investigate the ‘arrangements’ of the other 204/207 (depending on who you believe)!!

    • Thomas P says:

      Some of your students actually do read this blog. Pity you think we’re all as backward as some of our teachers.

    • cambridgej says:

      I will do the same!! A very useful teaching tool on how NOT to harmonise a simple tune!!
      OCR & AQA would have a field day!! :(

  6. Money on “arranging” totally wasted. Traditional harmonies more than fine. I wonder which other countries feel similarly upset? By the way Norman, these were recorded by the LPO, so don’t miss an opportunity to have a pop at them too. Tim Walker should resign I say.

  7. Sir:

    I find the United Kingdom national anthem to be completely vacuous and uninspiring. This is painfully manifest even in the best arrangement I have heard (by Willcocks), by virtue of its fabulous bombastic introduction. There are so many rousing patriotic songs that would suit the role of national anthem admirably, perhaps most notably Land of Hope and Glory. Alternatively (if the words are too politically incorrect), we could always steal a movement from a Haydn quartet…

    • Paul Andrews says:

      I completely agree. Why all this fuss about such a boring tune. Parry’s Jerusalem was heard at the Opening Ceremony. Clearly the hint was not taken. But is there actually a correct version of the national anthem? The missing notes are not part of the melody but just a rather obvious piece of filling in the space between phrases. I do agree with the general tenor of comments about the odd harmonisation, but I’m not sure I’d go so far as to suggest that heads should roll.

  8. Alan Ryder says:

    Greatly missed by the “singalong” crowd too – though it seems that they are getting used to it by dint of repetition. By closing show they’ll have it down pat!

  9. We Yanks repurpose “God save the Queen” as “My country ’tis of thee” making it one of a handful of songs we use informally as national anthems, and of course our official anthem, also repurposed from y’all’s wealth of solemnly patriotic music. Props to your nation for that. Especially Elgar, whose stuff hasn’t aged a day. I don’t know what he meant with titles like “Enigma variations” but they sound great.

    As for our own anthem, yes, the Olympics managed to butcher it as well. Too brisk in our case, no sense of phrasing–it’s as if the piece has no words, and while the Marseilles has the most killer music of any anthem, ours ain’t bad, and the lyrics are meaningful to us–harkening back to when our nascent nation was in serious danger of being squished by you guys.

    None of that is evident in the Olympics rendition, whose vibe is “OK, someone’s national anthem–let’s march this along smartly. Just make sure it’s over by the time the flag hits the top.”

    Did I mention perfunctory? Crashing cymbals repeatedly just added to making it all hat & no cattle…

    • I thought it was just me, that is the worst rendition of our National Anthem I have ever heard. Luckily is some venues there were enough Americans to sing it and at least it sounded a little better. But for how London Philharmonic recorded it Pathetic

      • Agree. The US national anthem has been turned into something almost unrecognizable at these Olympics. It seems to have been recorded in an odd key and both the metronomic, racing pace and the harmonics are extremely odd.

  10. I’m all for “wrong” and “missing” notes in national anthems. Makes your ears perk up and listen for a change. Certainly by the 19th Century the so-called missing notes weren’t considered musically essential to the identity of the tune. While Beethoven used them in his variations (http://petrucci.mus.auth.gr/imglnks/usimg/5/57/IMSLP51444-PMLP05873-WoO_78.pdf) other composers such as Dussek (http://erato.uvt.nl/files/imglnks/usimg/f/f0/IMSLP09891-Dussek_God_Save_the_King.pdf) and Liszt (http://petrucci.mus.auth.gr/imglnks/usimg/b/ba/IMSLP25616-PMLP12124-Liszt_-_S.235_GodSavetheQueen__Schuberth___Co._.pdf) did not.

    As for harmonies, Sheppard should be lucky he hasn’t been called to task by the authorities, as Stravinsky apparently was for his “radical” arrangement of the Star Spangled Banner. Wikipedia says ” Stravinsky’s unconventional major seventh chord in his arrangement of “The Star-Spangled Banner” led to an incident with the Boston police on 15 January 1944, and he was warned that the authorities could impose a $100 fine upon any “rearrangement of the national anthem in whole or in part”. The incident soon established itself as a myth, in which Stravinsky was supposedly arrested for playing the music”

    You can hear Igor’s fabulous version here:

  11. More on the “missing” notes.

    A quick look at the scores at IMSLP.org yielded several additional scores that also are missing those notes, indicating that they were not considered essential for establishing the identity of the melody.

    The most historically interesting of these scores is a set of musically uninteresting variations by Forkel, who is best known as the first biographer of JS Bach. There are some perfectly dreadful German lyrics in the preface to his 1791 score:
    http://erato.uvt.nl/files/imglnks/usimg/e/e2/IMSLP96651-PMLP198743-pdfsam_Forkel__JN__Variations_on_God_save_the_King.pdf

    Kalkbrenner also did not use the “missing” notes in his completely over-the-top variations.
    http://petrucci.mus.auth.gr/imglnks/usimg/d/da/IMSLP09071-Kalkbrenner_-_Op.99_-_Variazioni_di_Bravura_de_God_Save_the_King.pdf

    And to bring things back to Team GB, Samuel Wesley, an unimpeachable establishment figure, didn’t use them either.
    http://conquest.imslp.info/files/imglnks/usimg/b/b4/IMSLP96062-PMLP197584-s_s_wesley_national_anthem_variations.pdf

    –Sixtus

    • Michael Varcoe-Cocks says:

      Sixtus is very learned but completely misses the point: the four-note transition plays an indispensable role in bringing the (admittedly not tremendously inspiring) anthem to a rousing climax and has done for a very long time. Sheppard’s obviously wilful removal of the four notes should have been vetoed by Coe, LOCOG, the orchestra and anyone else involved in this ridiculous and presumably vastly remunerative commission. A truly simple solution would have been to ask each of the nations’ Olympic Committees to send in a CD of what THEY considered an appropriate version for their country. How insulting to think that we know better than they do and re-arrange their national anthems! And that goes for the UK as well – and why on earth does the UK submit to the IOC’s renaming of the United Kingdom?

      • The “very long time” clearly does not extend back to Forkel’s 1791, or for much of the 19th Century. The “missing” notes were transformed to an almost trivial little flourish by no less a composer than Beethoven in the first statement of the theme in his Wellington’s Victory. In the second, more triumphal appearance of the theme, the transition notes are again de-emphasized and downplayed, again as more of a musical flourish than a true melodic transition. Sheppard has ample historical precedent in de-emphasizing (Beethoven) or even eliminating the notes altogether (Liszt, Wesley) — they are not indispensable either musically or historically. Besides, I hear the musical climax of the melody occurring at its highest pitch in the penultimate bar. To me, a good arrangement must make this point clear, but that doesn’t necessarily require something happening 7 bars earlier to do so.

        I also have no objection for a composer/arranger putting his/her musical stamp on many or even all of the anthems. I thought one of the goals of the London Olympics was to put a British stamp on everything (as certainly happened during the opening ceremony), and which these arrangements do in the musical domain. It also forces one to take a good MUSICAL look at one’s own national anthem and to see what is truly necessary for it to work as MUSIC, not simply a statement of national identity. I actually think there’s an overemphasis of nationalism at the Olympics — I want to see top-flight sports performance, regardless of country of origin. I’d prefer an event with neither flag raising NOR national anthems, as happens, for example, in the Gay Games. This also would avoid TV presenters only giving the national slant on every event, something that often ends up being quite horrifically jingoistic here in the USA.

      • Robin Campbell says:

        Calling it ‘Great Britain’ rather than UK has to do with the complicated participation of Ireland. The Olympic Committee of Ireland embraces NI as well as the Republic. Read about it on Wikipedia.

  12. Absolutely love the Bmin to E7. Possibly could have kept the da da Da DA. A refreshing change nonethelesss

    • Steven Rhodes says:

      Agree Steve – Sheppard aimed for a goose-bump moment, and I think he nailed it there.

      • Quite a few of the athletes would seem to agree. I watched a few of the medal ceremonies. As the anthem hits “Send her victorious’, underpinned by that yearning chord progression, that was the moment that their eyes went pink.

        It’s a beautiful, rejuvenating arrangement, and evidently has some emotional punch.

        • SkiPresto says:

          Chumpy … Steven, Steve You said what I wanted to say. The re-orchestrated “God Save the Queen” is radical, challenging and devastatingly emotionally overwhelming especially when “..send her victorious..” whams in.

  13. “That depends how it is sung and payed.” Should that read “sung and played”. Was that a Freudian slip Norman or a deliberate slip of the finger ?

  14. Hamish Daya says:

    I find the harmonies in the Sheppard arrangement for London 2012 beautiful and inspiring; I’m addicted to it and can’t hear it enough! They are slightly left of field but that makes them more intriguing. It has revamped what was for me a dreadful old dirge. I also think it is highly appropriate that the subtle change was made given that Team GB consists of athletes from all of the UK, whereas the traditional arrangement of God Save The Queen is so associated with English football and associated moronism (fans and players alike unable to sing the correct words- it’s ‘God save THE Queen’ not ‘God save OUR queen’!), and thus perhaps is more inclusive.

    • Just be thankful that we’re not asked to sing every verse, and I quote:

      “Lord grant that Marshal Wade
      May by thy mighty aid
      Victory bring.
      May he sedition hush,
      And like a torrent rush,
      Rebellious Scots to crush.
      God save the Queen!”

      • Yes, and many loyal Scots (as opposed to the rebellious, seditious ones) fought the rebels at Cullodden to put an end to the imperial delusions of Charles Edward Stuart. He didn’t want to be king of Scots, he wanted to boss a Royal Roman Catholic monolithic empire from Ireland, Great Britain, France, Spain, Austrian Empire, Italy and so on to Persia.
        Unfortunately, his clan system was ridiculously archaic and tyrannical, and would have enslaved us all. He believed in the divine right of kings (In other words, the king (his truly) was closer to God than other mortals).
        The verse you ‘quote’ was never part of the anthem anyway.

  15. I am not surprised at all by these comments. I know Philip Sheppard who writes for television and music libraries. He had no proper harmony nor counterpoint tuition and never had the tools to be a composer. I am shocked by the fact that people as mediocre as him could get such important jobs. There should be national competitions organized to find the best people to do it. Or at least have people with adequate diplomas in Harmony, Counterpoint and Orchestration.

    • Right, it’s the diplomas that matter.

    • I remember Philip Sheppard as a very good cellist. It seems he has now transformed into a commercial music composer, writing for TV. This is a world where it helps to be a great networker rather than a talented composer/arranger. Did the LPO win the commission from LOCOG or was it Mr. Sheppard? I imagine that one or other party had a vested interest in susequently hiring the other…..

    • Steven Rhodes says:

      Absolutely, Richard. For something as traditional as the national Anthem there is the customary choice of well-qualified arranger: Peter Maxwell-Davies is Master of the Queen’s Music – would you have preferred his version?

    • There are hundreds of excellent composers in the UK… why did they select him for this task???? Why not UK’s “National Composer” (Master of the Queen’s Music) Sir Peter Maxwell Davies?

      Mr Sheppard taught at the Royal Academy of Music a compulsory class for UGs called “Music in Community”. That course taught how to make money entertaining children with music: he is all about the music business and not about the music. I am not surprised he did what he did.

  16. As a Royalist, if I had been in the LPO, I would have refused to play this incompetent arrangement as a matter of principle.

    The LPO have done their reputation no good at all.

  17. I found where the G-A-B-C went. They defected to Sheppard’s version of the Russian (ex-Soviet) national anthem, 26 seconds into this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iW_n7jbrShQ

    – where they replaced the notes B-C-D-E that should have been part of comparable transition phrase in that great anthem.

    Now we need to find out what country the Russian notes went to. Hungary, maybe? This will get sorted out eventually, I’m sure.

  18. Terrence says:

    Isn’t this somewhat in keeping with the mostly dreadful, discombobulated Opening Ceremonies?

  19. Perhaps they decided on the ugliest ever arrangement of God Save the Queen, so that after an Olympics where they expected us to win no gold medals they could breathe a sigh of relief and say ‘Well, let’s look on the bright side, at least nobody had to hear it’

    Now the truly challenging question of the Olympics is which is worse, the National Anthem or the 2012 logo and font?

  20. I’m just glad he didn’t get his hands on the East German one….

  21. I’ve been complaining about the U.S. national anthem arrangement since I first heard it. It is, well, cheesy, thin, not at all inspiring, and, as many have noted, the harmonization is just weird. As icing on the cake, the guy decided to pitch it in C major. I’m a pretty good untrained choral baritone (with absolute pitch) who has been singing in choirs since 1970. I can still sing an F without too much difficulty. But a high G, in a crowd, with no other real singers around me? Not even going to try. I hate to think what our gold medal athletes think, trying to sing the impossible.

    I have always thought that the standard “football stadium” version should be pitched down to Ab or even G, so “regular people” can actually, you know, sing the piece.

    The Olympics should allow each country to submit its own recording of its anthem, within guidelines. Frankly, I think the treatment of our anthem might have been purposely disrespectful.

    • Cecila Alpengeist says:

      I agree about harmonization of American anthem. Absolutely wayward, criminal passing tones, but not funky enough to be purposefully Ivesian. Couldn’t this have been remedied quickly? I’m sure any of the Big Five orchestras would have been happy to email them a digital file….

  22. Hugh Macdonald says:

    The long and short of it is that, as some others have said, the harmonisations are just plain incompetent. It’s not a question of the arranger trying to do something ‘original’. When you clearly don’t understand how to harmonise a simple 6/4, 5/1 cadence in a very simple tune you shouldn’t be paid good money to arrange it for a major event, you should have some basic music theory lessons. As for God Save the Queen: it’s certainly a pretty uninspiring tune but the main problem with it is it’s a hymn in praise of the monarch, not in celebration of the country. In this day and age it’s a poor substitute for a national anthem.

  23. The ‘missing phrase’, as it is entirely part of the accompaniment in the standard arrangement, is immaterial; it fits with the Sheppard arrangement if anyone wants to insert it. Also, an adjustment of the harmonies is worth trying if it is done with skill and taste. The trouble here is that this reharmonisation is gawky and unconvincing in its detail, particularly the desperate-sounding harmonic scrambles at the end of the fifth and sixth lines. It does not sound like the work of someone with the requisite knowledge of harmony and counterpoint.

  24. David Rydiard says:

    Put simply it is not the National Anthem as we know it. What I would like to know is who chose this version and why? It galls every time I hear it which is a shame at this Olympics when we have, thankfully, heard it so many times.

  25. John Hames says:

    I should declare an interest, in that I know Phil Sheppard (that’s Professor Philip Sheppard of the Royal Academy of Music, not some musically illiterate pop computer tunesmith, as some people seem to be assuming). Well, we seem to be stuck with this terrible dirge of a national anthem, so what do you do with it? My hearing of what PS has done is that the (very slight) harmonic tweaking softens (and was surely intended to) the more offensively strident jingoistic and imperialistic-sounding progression we’re used to (thus giving the world a more cuddly, new-age impression of this place). Moreover, it was absolutely right to make it impossible to bellow the LA-DA-DA-DA in the middle like a load of drunk football fans. I admit it sounds odd without it, but I’ll get over it. We should be more concerned with finding a decent national anthem.

  26. Here is an official youtube on the making of the national anthems, with the full US anthem at the end of the video. Someone save me from the cymbals…..

    The comments under the video are interesting, to say the least. I do note that the anthems had to be “approved,” although by whom isn’t stated.

  27. Have not actually heard the arrangement in question but can say that the recording for all the anthems was organised through a tender process. Whilst its possible to imagine that the contract didn’t necessarily go to the cheapest quote, the inclusion of a tender process always implies to me that price is more relevant than quality and, in most cases, that those making the decision have no expert understanding about what they are buying. It might prove illuminating if locog were to release information concerning the musical credentials of those who made the decision. My suspicion is that the gig went to the lowest quote involving a famous organisation.

    • Jonathan, I have seldom seen so many weasel words strung together in a single paragraph.
      You haven’t heard the arrangement in question/ it’s possible to imagine…/ didn’t necessarily…/ implies to me… / in most cases those making the decision have no expert understanding about what they are buying…/ might prove…/ my suspicion…/ and so on.
      Exactly how do you expect us to be better informed after reading your comment?

  28. For many years I played with an orchestra that played the “original” tune (at least that was what was claimed by the arranger who found an earlier source melody). It wasn’t bad, it finished on the 3rd rather than the tonic. However, the most common complaint I heard after concerts was that it was “wrong” because it wasn’t “the proper version” – or more concisely “We’re afraid of change”. There are some incredibly pompous comments here about what is right and wrong, especially given that the most obvious reharmonisation of the “send her victorious, happy and glorious” phrases aren’t exactly new as they’ve been done before (possibly played at the Proms, I seem to recall.) Fear of change seems to be at the heart of most, which is especially disappointing when some seem to come from school music teachers. Shame.

  29. Steven Rhodes says:

    I think the Olympic arrangement is excellent. There’s been no end of nonsense written about it: that it was in a minor key (twaddle) and, as here, that it missed a phrase. Instead Philip Sheppard has added some good harmonic interest and a couple of tingly suspensions – nor harm in that at all. Anyone with a musical ear can tell that this – pretty pedestrian – bridge between phrases is no part of the original anthem itself. I assume it’s just part of the standard arrangement used by the household division bands. Composers from Paganini to Britten realised that this particular melody not only could be better worked, but should be. Well done, Mr Sheppard. We’ve just finished a splendid Olympics amongst a period of dire economic mess: doesn’t Mr Lawson have enough to write about?

    • To compare Philip Sheppard to Paganini or Britten is plain ridiculous

      It’s like comparing a Rolls Royce to a clapped out Lada.!

  30. What a bizarrely miserable set of comments! Astonished the number of people who presume to pronounce on what is and isn’t “right” in composition. My academic training in harmony, counterpoint etc taught me what was right if I was trying to pastiche Bach… but not if I was trying to create a new arrangement of the national anthem for the 2012 Olympics. The composer is entitled to do what he wants and whilst you have the right not to like it, judging it against artificial academic standards (based on a western classical tradition of what is considered to sound good) is inappropriate and unfair. Personally I thought it worked well to have fresh arrangements of the anthems used consistently across the events, much more effective than some of the embarrassing efforts you get at other major sporting events. It added another distinctive element to a really good event.

    • Dr Johnson once said that if a chair collapses under one, one has a right to criticise its maker regardless of one’s knowledge of carpentry. The people ‘presuming to pronounce’ here, on whom you presume to pronounce, are a mixture of highly trained music professionals and laymen, many of whom find this arrangement unsatisfactory in one way or another. If we come from a western classical tradition, that is nothing to be ashamed of. Would someone who had encountered only Asian folk music be better qualified to ‘pronounce’?

      There is nothing wrong in principle with attempting a new arrangement of the British National Anthem (which is a piece of 17th- or 18th-century western classical music), provided the participating public feel comfortable with the result. That public includes people from the western classical tradition, and our ears have been sensitised to the sort of infelicities that mar this arrangement. Incidentally, what exactly is Mr Sheppard RAM professor of? It does not seem easy to find out.

      • John Hames says:

        Whether certain details of the arrangement are “infelicitous” or not is clearly a matter of subjective taste. And surely our ears have been DEsenstitised rather than the opposite, in that harmonies once considered plain wrong now pass without comment. Well, without comment except from people who happen not to like the results — and because this particular arrangement is not what they are used to, they reject it, on the basis of spurious contentions as to its technical competence, and personal attacks on the arranger, who is if nothing else an inspirational teacher and a brilliant player.

        • Not liking (or even hating) the arrangement is one thing – and many have given specific technical reasons why they don’t think it is very good. Fair enough. What seems unreasonable to me is that trying to make that argument sound authoritative by arguing that there is something inherently ‘incorrect’ about the arrangement.

          The 18th century prescriptive grammarians dictated that we should we not end a sentence with a preposition, thus giving them a criteria against which to sit in judgement on the adequacy of the speaker / writer. As Winston Churchill is alleged to have said – “that is something up with which I will not put”. Language is fundamentally about effective communication and people will be judged by how effectively they communicate to the audience they are addressing. It seems to me there are parallels with the musical process.

          I personally wasn’t bowled over by the new arrangement and found it wore a bit thin after its 29th repetition! But I think some of the rather personal criticisms of the composer here have been made from an unhelpful underlying assumption that some things about a composition are ‘right’ and some ‘wrong’. More effective, weaker, more beautiful, more clichéd – but not wrong, improper or ‘without requisite knowledge’.

          I do accept the criticism about criticising people for presuming to pronounce whilst doing the same thing!

      • ‘The British National Anthem (which is a piece of 17th- or 18th-century western classical music)’ may be one of the most significant phrases in your contribution, as it points up the key fact that the origin of the tune is unclear, and there is therefore no definitive version. As a few other voices have dared say on this blog, most of the naysayers seem to be attempting to wrap something that is really no more than dislike in the clothes of the cognoscenti.

  31. I also thought it an incompetent attempt. Much better is Rossini’s version which figures in his opera Il Viaggio a Reims. It’s sung by an English officer Lord Sydney, who, when requested to sing a song to entertain his fellow travellers, admits to knowing no other tune – quite an inditement of the musical ignorance of the British upper classes! Admittedly Rossini adds a couple of melismata to the tune but in so doing makes it more elegant. I sang it at La Scala in 2008 and it’s on YouTube!

  32. Not only was the GB National anthem spoilt, but apparently the “arrangements” have been passed to the Olympics to be used free of copyright in future games – what a bunch of plonkers!!

  33. I stumbled upon this site as had an interest in the different arrangement of the British National Anthem ad was looking to find more information on it. I have no background in music whatsoever but I am very patriotic and unlike many think we do have quite a stirring national anthem. However, at Olympic Games and on other sporting events it does always sound a little slow, flat and at times a little uninspiring. On hearing the London 2012 version for the first time on Team GB winning their first Gold medal I fell in love with it again though. From a ‘laypersons’ view, I think it sounds fantastic, far more stirring and emotive than the traditional ‘dirge’ (especially going into ‘send her victorious’). Not only did I think this but so too did many of my friends, equally with no particular musical background. It seems the only people that really dislike the new arrangement are the stuffy pretentious types!

    This is what Sheppard said to the BBC about the arrangement.

    ……….
    Sheppard says the arrangement of God Save the Queen is not in a minor key. The new version, like the original, is in the key of G major, but Sheppard says some “goosebumpy” chords have been added to create tension – this includes a passing E minor chord.

    “The harmony has been subtly shifted in the bassline which means that from a musical point of view, it creates a stronger cadence returning into the home key.”

    The bridge passage that leads into the “Send her victorious…” are not featured, because “it is not in the original tune. It is such a strong feature of another known arrangement, not a melodic feature of the original anthem,” the composer says.
    ……….

  34. That’s strange since me and my mother looked at each other and said, what the heck…that’s the music to the USA national anthem…we even any along with the correct words. I don’t know how they can get away with it.
    A song for the Queen? I better leave that one alone since I don’t believe in kings if queens….nor does God….arrogance.

    • SkiPresto says:

      K, The National Anthem of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has been in use in Great Britain since 1745.
      That is prior to the American Declaration of Independence from Great Britain.
      In USA “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee”, the lyrics of which were written by Samuel Francis Smith in 1831.
      There are many other countries which have used this tune too.
      The origin of the tune is probably Scottish, and would have been taken to the Americas by emigrant Scots.
      “The Star Spangled Banner” is the Anthem of the USA, and has been since 1931.

  35. It should be as illegal to use the united stated national anthem for any other purpose as it is to burn the American flag… How dare….. Who died and made her queen? Lol. I think its time to get rid of all those titles.
    someone should sue them for using our national anthem. If it were the other way around we’d hear about it…by George.

  36. SkiPresto says:

    I thought the phrase “Ladies and Gentlemen, please stand for the National Anthem of Great Britain” was very rousing. Obviously, it should have said “United Kingdom”, but quite honestly, Northern Ireland has cost so much to maintain, they should be happy to be part of the main island, in the same way as the Outer Hebrides are.

    The arrangement of “God Save the Queen” was a masterpiece. It was the correct tempo for a celebration, and the third bar comes in like a sledgehammer. I loved it. The Minor overtone gave a chilling edge to ram home to the other nations that there was a calculated efficiency about these wins.

  37. SkiPresto says:

    As for the National anthem of the United States of America (The Star Spangle Banner) give me the Hendrix Woodstock version every time. Devastating. You can hear every bomb and every dead child’s ghost wailing down the decades from Vietnam.

  38. Henry Newbury says:

    How so many of you can not enjoy this arrangement is saddening, the progression at the resolve in the first verse to eminor rather than G is a fantastic idea, then bminor to E, am, D and back to to em (adding 7ths and sus’s where sounds nice!) again all give the piece so much more emotion. People who like to analyse might like the idea that from major, minor and back to major it could be argued parallels the emotional struggle each athlete goes through on their journey to having this anthem played when they step highest on the podium. Hats off to good ol’ Phillip Sheppard, he’s done a top job!

    I’ve not heard all the National Anthems that were arranged for the Olympics so cannot comment on many more.

    In my honest opinion, the GB National Anthem as re-arranged here is one of the highlights of the Games, and it would be less without it.

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