'Expert council' gives guidance on how Latvian anthem should sound

Take note – story published 6 years and 5 months ago

Anyone who might be called upon to sing the Latvian national anthem should consider carrying a set of tuning forks and a metronome with them at all times if the recommendations of an "expert council" of the Latvian Academy of Sciences published January 3 are adopted.

And if over the years you have got into the habit of singing in the key of F-major or, heaven forbid, E-minor, you had better mend your errant ways. 

Following a conference on the subject of how to sing the Latvian national anthem,  Dievs, svētī Latviju! (God, Bless Latvia!), the musical moderators have published their recommendations, so take note or face the possibility of penalties and disgrace.

When sung by a choir (mixed, women or men's choir) with instrumental accompaniment, the anthem should be performed in A-flat major, the bombastic boffins declare. The current, official version of the anthem, as provided in the Law on the National Anthem of Latvia, is in A-flat major.

But get this - if performed by an individual singer, with or without instrumental accompaniment, the anthem should be in D major!

However depending on the type of choir (for instance one that cannot manage A-flat major), the anthem may also be performed in other keys, but never freely interpreted, an expert council of the Latvian Academy of Sciences concluded. Free interpretation of the anthem, for instance, in jazz, rap, rock, reggae, or indeed any less-than-certified-by-the-experts genre (who, being of a choral background might be said to have a vested interest in the matter) is unacceptable.

The council believes that regulations may be tightened up to ensure that rules on the national anthem are always adhered to, though it does not specify who exactly will be responsible for halting, say, a rendition in C major and making everyone switch back to A-flat major or D major as appropriate or what powers of punishment someone humming the anthem to a bossa nova beat might face.

The experts said that the tempo of the anthem should be 96 beats per minute or a little faster.

The expert council also issued recommendations on instances when the abridged version of the anthem may be performed. The council emphasized that the anthem of Latvia may not be changed as "this is one of the most beautiful and emotional anthems in the world" though again, as Latvians they probably have a slightly biased opinion, rather than a purely musicologically-based one.

The conclusion: freedom is good, but not necessarily when it comes to singing the song that symbolizes Latvia's freedom.

As previously reported by LSM, not only is the musical accuracy of performances likely to be under scrutiny but even interpretive criteria, though free (and occasionally even downright critical or satirical) interpretations of various national anthems have taken place over the years, with no lasting ill effects reported.

If you would like to read the full, fun 20 page document listing anthem dos and don'ts produced by the expert conclave, you can do so (in Latvian) HERE.





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