National anthem Five musicians reveal their attachment to the national anthem

The 'Heemecht' is Luxembourg's national anthem. It is more than a simple song: il symbolises the Grand Duchy, the identity of its people and its sense of belonging to a nation. 

'Wou d'Uelzecht durech d'Wisen zéit, Duerch d'Fielsen d'Sauer brëcht.' These are the first words of our national anthem 'Ons Heemecht' (Our Homeland). Written in 1859 by the poet Michel Lentz and set to music by Jean-Antoine Zinnen, it was first played publicly by four singers at a band competition in Ettelbruck in 1864.

The official version is only composed of the first and last stanza. The national anthem is played at most public state and sports events. It is more than a simple song. 'Ons Heemecht' has a political dimension, because it symbolises the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, as do the national coat of arms and the flag. The national anthem is unique and an integral part of this country. 

When it is played during the celebrations of the birthday of HRH the Grand Duke on 23 June, 'Ons Heemecht' takes on a partciularly important role, as it conveys the people's profound sense of identity and belonging. 

As musicians bridge the divide between music and audience, we were curious to get to know their personal relationship to the national anthem, and asked them which line or words were their favourites, and why. Here are their answers. 

Serge Tonnar, musician and composer

'Looss viru blénken d'Fräiheetssonn
déi mir sou laang gesin.'

'Let Freedom's sun in glory glow
For now and evermore.'

© ed.binsfled/huot

 

'In this line, it's most of all the 'freedom's sun' which charms me. Freedom is the subject of many Luxembourgish patricotic songs from the 19th century, and an ideal I can still identify with today. Contrary to today's false patriots who seek a division of our society, this is about cohesion through a common bigger value. Freedom has to be fought for every day, even though today it faces other threats than during Michel Lentz' time.'

Claire Parsons, musician and composer

'Gesank, Gesank vu Bierg an Dall Der Äärd, déi äis gedron;  
'Léift huet en treie Widderhall A jidder Broschts gedon' 

'Sing, sing, on high berg and wide dale,
the earth who bore our births.
Our love with faithful echo still,
Our hearts beat with mirth.'

© Lynn Theisen

 

'… extremely beautiful, because I am a musician and also because the sentence reflects what songs in a society are all about. Singing is there to give us hope, in good moments as in difficult ones. It doesn't matter whether the song originates from nature or people who are fundamentally in tune with it, we listen and harmonise.'

Daniel Balthasar, musician and composer

'De fräie Geescht' and 'Looss viru blénken d’Fräiheetssonn' 

'Your spirit of liberty bestow'
'Let Freedom's sun in glory glow'

© Véronique Kolber

 

'I am not a particularly patriotic or religious person. Nonetheless, for me the lines 'De fräie Geescht' and 'Looss viru blénken d'Fräiheetssonn' hold a deeper meaning which I connect with. The fact that I have been born into a country and age where everybody can freely express their ideas without fearing for their lives is something that I do not consider to be self-evident. Our national anthem is a reminder of that.'

Sascha Ley, singer, composer, producer

'Wou d’Uelzecht durech d’Wisen zéit,
Duerch d’Fielsen d’Sauer brécht,
Wou d’Rief laanscht d’Musel dofteg bléit,
Den Himmel Wäin ons mecht…'

"Where the Alzette slowly flows,
The Sura plays wild pranks,
Where fragrant vineyards amply grow
On the Mosella's banks;"

© Lynn Theisen

 

"I don't know any hymns by heart, and instead of thinking of 'my' homeland I see myself travelling the whole world. The world would be my ideal homeland. I love our beautiful multicultural country, but as a potential nomad my thoughts hardly reach the subject of nationalism. Therefore, the description of nature in this verse is dear to me, contemplative and totally harmless."

David Ianni, pianist and composer

'O Du do uewen, dem seng Hand…' 

'O Thou above whose powerful hand'

© Morris Kemp

 

'The older I get, the less I know how to say whose 'hand' is there 'above'. What is that infinite and inscrutable force? Nonetheless, I have been accompanied my whole life by the profound certainty that this hand carries me, protects me, catches me and lifts me up, again and again. I sense that the infinite love which 'makes states or lays them low' ('duerch d'Welt d'Natioune leet') flows through us all if we open our eyes (from the bottom of our hearts). Through our thankfulness for a geographical home comes a sense of belonging to ALL of life: We are ALL brothers and sisters on this small planet.' 

Ons Heemecht (original)

Wou d'Uelzecht durech d'Wisen zéit,
Duerch d'Fielsen d'Sauer brëcht.
Wou d'Rief laanscht d'Musel dofteg bléit,
Den Himmel Wäin ons mëcht.
Dat as onst Land, fir dat mir géif,
Heinidden alles won.
Ons Heemechtsland, dat mir sou déif
An onsen Hierzer dron.

O Du do uewen, deem séng Hand
Duurch d'Welt d'Natioune leet.
Behitt Du d'Lëtzebuerger Land
Vru friemem Joch a Leed!
Du hues ons all als Kanner schon
de fräie Geescht jo gin.
Looss viru blénken d'Fräiheetssonn
déi mir sou laang gesin.

Our Homeland (translation)

Where the Alzette slowly flows,
The Sura plays wild pranks,
Where fragrant vineyards amply grow
On the Mosella's banks;
There lies the land for which we would
Dare everything down here,
Our own, our native land which ranks
Deeply in our hearts!

O Thou above whose powerful hand
Makes States or lays them low,
Protect this Luxembourger land
From foreign yoke and woe.
Your spirit of liberty bestow
On us now as of yore.
Let Freedom's sun in glory glow
For now and evermore.

(Translation: Nicholas E. Weydert / 1929)