I feel somewhat ambivalent about the antics of the newly elected Brexit ‘Party’ Members of the European Parliament today showing their disdain for the E.U. by standing up and turning their backs during the playing of Beethoven’s Ode To Joy in the inaugural session of the parliament. Nigel Farage may have a point when he says that since the E.U. is not a country it can’t have a national anthem. The E.U. is merely an international institution, and in that respect the idea of having an anthem, during which you are expected to stand could be considered as specious as say, the International Monetary Fund declaring it too might have an anthem. (It would be a good test of one’s musical knowledge to choose an appropriate anthem for the I.M.F.)
Another reason for my ambivalence is my once honoured tradition of not standing for God Save The Queen. Remaining seated was my preferred option when aeons ago, they played the national anthem before films started at The Palace cinema in Malton – a feature which has long since deceased. There were occasions later, when as a member of Hull City Council’s Cultural Services Committee, with free tickets to the various classical concerts at the City Hall, I didn’t stand when that drum roll started. Just to rub the point in (i.e. being a republican) I would stand when visiting Soviet orchestras played their rather more stirring national anthem. Oh, happy memories!
On becoming an MP I took a different attitude. Perhaps I felt that as a representative of all my constituents I shouldn’t make such egregiously small gestures, but should demonstrate a ‘grown up’ attitude (is this how they get you?). Now it doesn’t seem to matter so much. If you are lying in bed listening to Radio 4 on the Queen’s birthday, when I believe they still play God Save The Queen before the main morning news bulletins, are you supposed to leap up and stand to attention (donning pyjamas as you do so)?
One of the problems with God Save The Queen is, of course, its dirge-like monotony and its blood curdling lyrics most of which are, I agree, never reached and sung and are definitely unknown to the vast majority of Brits, including I suspect all of Nigel Farage’s troupe of fools. The best version of that particular anthem is the one woven into Beethoven’s Wellington’s Victory, Op. 91, composed to celebrate Wellington’s defeat of Napoleon at the battle of Vittoria. Beethoven again! I guess what does rankle with me with Farage’s gesture is that it disrespects Beethoven’s sublime music. It would be like remaining seated during Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus. But I suspect we are now represented in Europe by a bunch of philistines who simply can’t wait to celebrate an anthem much beloved by our Hanoverian rulers.