What's it like to be a singer for the German National Anthem?

on . Posted in Singing.

The German Flag: schwarz, rot, goldWhen the lady sang another country's national anthem at the olympics and just sang "la la la," I thought that was really silly. A national anthem represents a country, just as the sports teams who are playing the game represent the country. And for an official meeting between countries that calls for music, it can set people at ease and give them a topic of conversation. Music bridges a lot between nations.

A couple of years ago I was asked to sing the German Nationalhymne (national anthem), known as Das Lied der Deutschen (The Song of the Germans) for Germany's Day of Unity celebrations (October 3rd) in St. Paul, Minnesota. It was an honor and I was floored. I enjoyed memorizing the words because they are tremendous.

(Would you believe I lived in Germany for five years without having learned the words?! More to that after the text.)

Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit für das deutsche Vaterland.

Danach lasst uns alle streben, brüderlich mit Herz und Hand.

Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit sind des Glückes Unterpfand:

Blüh im Glanze dieses Glückes, blühe, deutsches Vaterland!

 

Unity and justice and freedom for the German fatherland.

Let's all strive for that, brotherly with heart and hand.

Unity and justice and freedom are the pledge of happiness:

Blossom in the light of this joy, blossom, German Fatherland!

Translation (C) Nicole Warner, LLC 2017 All rights reserved.

 

You might have noticed that the German version rhymes, which is quite nice. And the ideas of unity, justice and freedom are qualities that are present in Germany's culture today.

What's with the German national anthem?

The relationship that the Germans have to their national anthem is completely different from ours in the US. Here we sing the "Star-Spangled Banner" and play it as it's a very common element at large gatherings, sports games, and other major events--we hear it all the time. In Germany they sing it at the beginning of international sports matches and on October 3rd, their National Day of Unity (Tag der deutschen Einheit). as well as official receptions and events. But not nearly as often as we do, thus plenty of Germans don't even know the words to their own national anthem.

The history of the German Nationalhymne is a rough one, because the first couple of verses were abused by the N*z*s between 1933 and 1945. The first two verses have been banned since 1991. The third verse is the only verse that is sung. Period. (And if you hear the first or second verse being sung, you should be aware that you're not in nice company. Seriously.)

So combine the darkest chapter of German history, an aversion to anything that could be deemed patriotic (because the N*z*s ruined that word for them), and not very many opportunities to learn the words to the only acceptable verse? You've got a logical lack of text knowledge and not many opportunities to change that!

PLUS Germans are very regional in their sentiments, they feel a very strong sense of loyalty to the area or the state they grew up in. Can you think of a time when you've seen this regional loyalty? Perhaps...Oktoberfest? That's a fantastic example. And the way that they enjoy their dialects is stellar--Schwäbisch, Plattdeutsch, Berlinerisch--they have a deep connection to these regional elements but not at a national level.

 

What's it like to sing the German national anthem for Germans abroad?

It's an incredible experience to sing the German national anthem for German living in the US. Es ist eine Ehre. (It's an honor.) I was honored to sing it two times for the National Day of Unity Celebrations for the Honorary Consul in St. Paul, MN, once in 2014 and again in 2015. Each time it was a moving experience. In 2014 the intriguing part was one man's request that we repeat it, so everyone could sing along. And in 2015 the emotions in the room were palpable--it was a smaller location and it made for a more intimate musical experience.

 

Dear Reader, are you in need a singer for the German national anthem?

If so, please contact me via the contact page here. I'd be delighted to work with you for your Germanic or international event and to sing the German Nationalhymne for you.

Auf Wiedersehen!

 

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