April 19

1984

Australia chooses a national anthem

In 1878 the song “Advance Australia Fair” was first performed. Its composer Peter Dodds McCormick said of it:

One night I attended a great concert in the Exhibition Building, when all the National Anthems of the world were to be sung by a large choir with band accompaniment. This was very nicely done, but I felt very aggravated that there was not one note for Australia. On the way home in a bus, I concocted the first verse of my song & when I got home I set it to music. I first wrote it in the Tonic Sol-fa notation, then transcribed it into the Old Notation, & I tried it over on an instrument next morning, & found it correct. Strange to say there has not been a note of it altered since. Some alteration has been made in the wording, but the sense is the same. It seemed to me to be like an inspiration, & I wrote the words & music with the greatest ease. 

Here is a 1927 rendition of it, replete with British jingoism that a later generation would excise. Fans of royalty will note the appearance of our Queen and her late consort.

Though widely popular, it did not replace “God Save the Queen” as the national anthem until a referendum in which “Advance Australia Fair” nudged out “Waltzing Matilda” as the winner. The current version, more politically correct than the original, now reads:

Australians all let us rejoice,
For we are young and free;
We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil;
Our home is girt by sea;
Our land abounds in nature’s gifts
Of beauty rich and rare;
In history’s page, let every stage
Advance Australia Fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia Fair.
Verse 2
Beneath our radiant Southern Cross
We’ll toil with hearts and hands;
To make this Commonwealth of ours
Renowned of all the lands;
For those who’ve come across the seas
We’ve boundless plains to share;
With courage let us all combine
To Advance Australia Fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia Fair.

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