Tune of the Day: God Save the Queen
This tune must long have been the best-known tune in the world, having at one time or another been borrowed by about 20 countries as that of their official national song. The authorship of the words is obscure; the origin of the tune is surrounded by uncertainty, myth and speculation. In The Oxford Companion to Music, Percy Scholes devotes about four pages to this subject… without coming to a satisfactory conclusion.
The tune is, in rhythm and style, a galliard. Many tunes of this type dating back to the early 17th century exist which show some phrases resembling those in “God Save the Queen”. An English Christmas carol printed in 1611, “Remember, O thou Man“, shows similar resemblances. Much stronger resemblances are seen in a keyboard piece by John Bull, so his name is sometimes attached to the tune.
In the USA the tune has at different times been sung to many different sets of words: “God Save America”, “God Save George Washington”, “God Save the Thirteen States”, etc. The present words, “My country, ’tis of Thee”, date from 1831.
You might be surprised to discover that many composers, including Beethoven, Weber, Paganini, Brahms, Donizetti, and Verdi have introduced the tune into their compositions or even based entire works on it.