Francis Scott Key
composer of The Star-Spangled Banner


National anthem is the official patriotic song of a nation. National anthems are intended to stir a sense of patriotism and loyalty among citizens of a country. They are performed at official and ceremonial public occasions, international gatherings, and athletic events. They are also played to honor a head of state.

Most national anthems are composed as marches, hymns, and anthems. The words of some commemorate the ideals of the nation. Others celebrate a country's natural beauty or honor a national hero. Some recall a national crisis or important event in a country's history.

Some music and words have been composed specifically for use as a national anthem. However, many countries have adapted existing music and words for their anthems. For example, John Stafford Smith, an English composer, wrote "To Anacreon in Heaven" (late 1700's?). The song became the music for "The Star-Spangled Banner," the national anthem of the United States. The words of the anthem are a poem written by Francis Scott Key in 1814.

The idea of an official national anthem dates from about 1825. At that time, Britain's patriotic song "God Save the King" (or "Queen") was called "the national anthem." However, the song had been performed as early as 1745 and ranks as the oldest national anthem in the world.

Contributor: Leonard W. Van Camp, D.M.A., Director of Choral Activities, Southern Illinois Univ., Edwardsville.


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