NATO adopted an official hymn for the first time in the Alliance’s history on Wednesday (3 January 2018). Composed for NATO’s fortieth anniversary in 1989, the “NATO Hymn” was written by Captain André Reichling, conductor of the Luxembourg Military Band. Since then it has been played at many NATO events, including the most recent meeting of Allied Heads of State and Government in May 2017.
The earliest proposals for a NATO hymn can be traced to the late 1950s, in preparation for the Alliance’s tenth anniversary. In 1958, the UK’s Thomas Hildebrand Preston composed a NATO ceremonial march to welcome visitors to NATO Headquarters in Paris. In 1959, a “NATO Song” was performed by an orchestra and a choir at NATO’s tenth anniversary pageant, composed by Captain Hans Lorenz of the German Air Force with lyrics by Captain Stephanus van Dam of the Netherlands and Leon van Leeuwen of the United States. In 1960, the UK’s Air Marshal Sir Edward Chilton proposed a NATO anthem arranged by Squadron Leader J. L. Wallace, which combined all fifteen national anthems of NATO’s member states at the time. Captain Reichling’s 1989 composition proved most successful of all, becoming NATO’s de facto hymn for nearly thirty years.
The “NATO Hymn” approved by the North Atlantic Council has no lyrics, and is scored for twenty musical instruments: piccolo, flute, oboe, three clarinets, three saxophones, two cornets, two trumpets, horn, baritone horn, three trombones, tuba, and snare drum. Listen to it here.