Welsh anthem beats God Save the Queen in sing-along study

Excerpts of the Welsh anthem - as sung by rugby fans

Related Stories

The Welsh national anthem hits just the right notes in an academic study which looks to measure "sing-ability" of patriotic songs.

A musicologist found people more willing to join in with a chorus from Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau than the UK's official anthem, God Save the Queen, and USA's Star-Spangled Banner.

Opera singer Wynne Evans, also star of well known insurance commercials, said the Welsh anthem was his favourite because it allows singers to "really let rip".

"It's got such a great tune," he said.

The French anthem La Marseillaise topped a list produced by experts at the universities of York and London. It was rated with a "sing-along-ability" score of 50.98% with Wales second on 41.81%.

This compares with Australia (36.03%), Germany (31.71%), Canada (31.53%), USA (30.35%), Great Britain (30.22%) and Scotland (25.84%), although neither the Welsh or Scottish songs are official anthems.

The study measured the ability of different national anthems to make listeners spontaneously join in and sing along.

Start Quote

Wynne Evans

It doesn't matter what you sing as long as there's a big finish ”

End Quote Singer Wynne Evans

Musicologist Dr Alisun Pawley conducted the study as part of her PhD at the University of York with Dr Daniel M├╝llensiefen, a German music psychologist at Goldsmith's, University of London.

'Show nation's pride'

They used 30 musical variables to examine the anthems of the six nation states all as well as Scotland and Wales and used that data to generate a percentage score showing the best.

Opera singer Evans from Carmarthen said: "The Welsh national anthem in my opinion is the best anthem because it's got such a great tune.

"It's very singable for the first half and then we get the 'Gwlad, Gwlad' where you can really let rip and really show your nation's pride."

STORY OF THE SONG

  • The words to Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (Land Of My Fathers) were written by Pontypridd weaver Evan James to music Glan Rhondda (Banks of the Rhondda) composed by his son James on a harp in 1856.
  • The original manuscript is kept by the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth.
  • The song was popularised after the 1858 Llangollen Eisteddfod.
  • In 1899 it became the first known recording made in the Welsh language
  • It was sung before the 1905 Wales victory over the All Blacks
  • Rock guitarist Robert 'Tich' Gwilym recorded a Hendrix-inspired version

He said: "As someone once said to me, it doesn't matter what you sing as long as there's a big finish and that's exactly what the Welsh national anthem has."

Part of the study looked at variables from the amount of vocal effort to the number of "nonsense syllables used at important times" to discover what influences sing-along behaviour.

It was originally devised to study pop songs.

Variables analysed included the use of high chest voice, the clarity of consonants, the use of vocal ornamentation, the gender of the vocalist, vocal range, length of the phrases, and aspects of the lyrics, such as the "number of nonsense syllables used at important times of song".

The data was then used to create a "sing-along-ability" percentage for each anthem.

Dr Pawley explained why the UK anthem scored poorly.

SING-ALONG-ABILITY SCORES

  • La Marseillaise, France, 50.98%
  • Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (Land of My Fathers), Wales, 41.81%
  • Advance Australia Fair, Australia, 36.03%
  • Das Deutschlandlied (Song of Germany), Germany, 31.71%
  • O Canada, Canada, 31.53%
  • The Star-Spangled Banner, USA, 30.35%
  • God Save The Queen, UK, 30.22%
  • Flower of Scotland, Scotland, 25.84%

"The tune is written in a way that doesn't invite high chest voice singing for most people's voices.

"And it lacks a real hook or climax where people feel compelled to join in or belt it out."

And that is why the Welsh anthem faired better, according to Welshman Evans.

"You can go up the octave at the end and finish with a big note," he said.

Denbighshire-born composer Paul Mealor, writer of the Christmas number one Wherever You Are sung by the Military Wives as well as his own number one classical album, said the secret to a successful song was telling a compelling story with a simple tune that could be quickly remembered.

"It sounds simple but it is really difficult," said Mr Mealor, a professor in music composition.

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Wales stories

RSS

Features

  • The OfficeIn pictures

    Fifty landmark shows from 50 years of BBC Two


  • French luxury Tea House, Mariage Freres display of tea pots Tea for tu

    France falls back in love with tea - but don't expect a British cuppa


  • Worcestershire flagFlying the flag

    Preserving the identities of England's counties


  • Female model's bottom in leopard skin trousers as she walks up the catwalkBum deal

    Why budget buttock ops can be bad for your health


  • Two women in  JohanesburgYour pictures

    Readers' photos on the theme of South Africa


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.