Wales

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

  • 25 January 2012
  • From the section Wales

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.

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."

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.

"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.

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