EP word of the week (#104): A Portuguesa

Last Saturday (June 10th) we celebrated a national annual holiday in Portugal – it’s a very special day since it commemorates the death of Luís de Camões, one of Portugal’s greatest poets and writer of the sixteenth century national epic poem Os Lusíadas (published in 1572), about the role of the Portuguese during the Discoveries (Os Descobrimentos) enmeshed with stories of Portuguese history up until that point. Students in the 9th and 12th grades/forms (ages 14-15 and 17-18, respectively) are obliged to read and study the test for their Portuguese language curricula, which makes it a very important and respected book.

So, June 10th is known as [o] Dia de Camões (Camões’ day), but the holiday celebrates the country as a whole, the Portuguese language and Portuguese communities all over the world: its full name is [o] Dia de Portugal, de Camões e das Comunidades Portuguesas.

Another important symbol of Portugal as an independent country is its national anthem – [o] hino nacional – ours is called A Portuguesa; the title is feminine because it’s implied that we’re talking about a song¹, since the word for song is feminine (a canção), therefore we get A [canção] portuguesa.

Sheet music for A Portuguesa. Pauta d’ A Portuguesa.

A clear inspiration for the title must have been La Marseillaise, the French national anthem, which is translated as A Marselhesa in Portuguese. Despite being written close to a century later, it shares with it more than just the title: our anthem’s chorus also mentions marching and it’s quite nationalistic and militaristic. It was written in 1890 (Lyrics by Henrique Lopes de Mendonça and Music by Alfredo Keil), as a Republican response to the failures of the Monarchy in dealing with the British Ultimatum of 1890, and it became the national anthem in 1911, with the first Republican Constitution (Portugal became a Republic in 1910).

For more info on the lyrics and their meaning, you can check Wikipedia’s article on the anthem here. Even though we learn the lyrics by heart in primary school, the anthem is used only on official functions; most people usually only hear it a few times a year, usually at the start of football matches! If you want to practice your anthem singing skills and become truly Portuguese, here’s one such example :)

¹ For more information on implied genders, please read this post.

3 thoughts on “EP word of the week (#104): A Portuguesa

  1. Patricia Eckmeier June 15, 2017 / 7:22 pm

    Obrigada pela música! This still is a wonderful EP experience, every week, thank you, Luís!

    Liked by 2 people

    • luisdomingos June 15, 2017 / 7:28 pm

      You’re welcome, thank you for your kind words!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. João Duarte June 20, 2017 / 10:49 pm

    There’s an EP version of my comment below so people can practice!

    I can’t tell how many times I’ve played this anthem…

    This is an integral part of my job; I work at the President’s band.
    Once I played “A Portuguesa” 13 times in the same morning, in a guard of honor, to receive foreign diplomats (along with their respective anthems).
    It never get’s old and it’s always a pleasure.

    Fun geek fact:
    The official instrumental version, and original, is in E flat major and it’s the one we always play at official events.
    The score you presented is the official singing version of the anthem, in C major.
    This version was created in March of 1956 because the original version wasn’t suitable for the common person to sing, due to an extended vocal range requirement.

    In this link you can find the anthem in different versions. I’m playing the snare drum in the last two versions with the Guarda Nacional Republicana’s Symphonic Band. :)


    Não te consigo dizer quantas vezes é que toquei este hino…

    Isto (tocar o hino) é uma parte integral do meu trabalho; eu trabalho na banda do Presidente.
    Uma vez toquei “A Portuguesa” 13 vezes na mesma manhã, numa guarda de honra, para receber diplomatas estrangeiros (juntamente com os seus respetivos hinos).
    Nunca me farto e é sempre um prazer.

    Facto geek engraçado:
    A versão oficial instrumental, e original, é em mi bemol maior e é a que tocamos sempre em eventos oficiais.
    A partitura que apresentaste é a versão oficial do hino para canto, em dó maior.
    Esta versão foi criada em março de 1956 devido à versão original não ser adequada ao canto por uma pessoa comum, devido ao requisito de uma amplitude vocal extensa.

    Neste link encontram o hino em versões diferentes. Eu estou a tocar caixa nas últimas duas versões com a Banda Sinfónica da Guarda Nacional Republicana. :)



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