Hymns, marches, songs or fanfares used as official patriotic symbols.
National anthems are the equivalent in music of a country’s motto, crest or flag. The English term ‘anthem’ as applied to such a piece became current in the early 19th century; in most other languages the word corresponding to the English ‘hymn’ is used. The occasions upon which national anthems are required vary from country to country, but one of their main functions has always been to pay homage to a reigning monarch or head of state; they are therefore normally called for on ceremonial occasions when such a person or his representative is present. The playing of anthems in theatres, cinemas and concert halls, now less widespread than it once was, dates from 1745 when Thomas Arne’s version of God Save the King was sung at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Anthems are frequently used today at football matches and sports meetings, notably at the quadriennial Olympic Games, where the winner of each event is saluted with the anthem of the country he represents. The power of a national anthem to strengthen a nation’s resolve was demonstrated during World War II when the BBC’s weekly broadcasts from London of the anthems of the Allied Powers attracted an audience of millions throughout Europe. It is now as much a matter of course for every country to have its own anthem as to have its own flag....