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NH's Nine State Songs

Old Man Singing

OLD NEW HAMPSHIRE
OLD NEW HAMPSHIRE
OLD NH GRAND & GREAT

Even with nine state songs, the Granite State can barely carry a tune. So let's just stick with the flawed original, and quit trying.

 

 

For a liberal, I’m pretty conservative when it comes to New Hampshire iconography. I like the old stuff best. Elsewhere in this web site I took exception to an attempt to alter the design of the NH state flag. I say, leave it alone, and I say the same for the state flower (purple lilac) and the state tree (white birch). I’m glad that the purple finch beat out the New Hampshire hen as state bird back in 1957. I don’t know exactly what "Live Free or Die" means, but it makes for a wonderfully controversial state motto. I go hot and cold on the state song.

When I was in grammar school we had music lessons in the gym. We sat on pull-out bleachers and the music teacher drilled us silly, banging on her piano in the echoing room. I can still sing three songs she taught us. One was about a Russian peasant girl named Minka who was sad and dreary because she had to work too hard, probably because her boss was a communist.

The second was the theme song to Smokey the Bear – a-prowlin’ and a- growlin’ and a-sniffin’ the air. Did you know that he can spot a fire, before it starts to flame? Well, that’s why they call him Smokey; that is how he got his name.

Once NH governor Hugh Gallen came to our classroom with Smokey the Bear. I must have been pretty young because I had the odd sensation that there was actually a man inside a bear suit, but I didn’t want to alarm the other kids by saying so. I got the governor and the bear’s autograph, and we sang our Smokey song.

Then we sang the official New Hampshire song. I remember that one too. I didn’t know then that "Old New Hampshire" was a poem written by Dr. John F. Holmes in 1926 and that the music was by Maurice Hoffmann. In fact, until I looked the song up this week, I thought it was "Oh, New Hampshire". But that’s not so bad. I sang a Christmas carol for years about "a par tree a jitter par tree" until someone pointed out that the lyric was actually "a partridge in a pear tree" – which didn’t make a lot more sense to me.

Having now reread the lyrics of the NH state song, I can understand why people have been itching to change it for decades. The chorus still stirs my soul, but the second verse is awful. "Builded he New Hampshire glorious" is pretty awful. Note that "he" refers to God and "she" to the state of New Hampshire. That leads to a very pregnant moment in the final line of the second verse where "her crystal waters break". Could the Old Man of the Mountain have been their illegitimate child? But those lyrics are no more schmaltzy than those in the Shaw Brother’s folksy "New Hampshire, Naturally", an alternative state song that has also been adopted as the slogan for a Seacoast nudist camp.

Recent emigrants to the Granite State may be unaware that, while we have only one "official" song, the state has also recognized eight "honorary" alternatives. The theory, it appears, is that ten mediocre tunes add up to something better than one stinker. This, of course, comes from the NH State Legislature, the third largest democratic decision-making body on the planet.

So for those of you who think bad poetry cannot bring fame, I offer the official song in full. Below it, for those who still think I’m kidding, are the legally binding runners up – only in New Hampshire.

OLD NEW HAMPSHIRE
Official NH state song, adopted 1949

With a skill that knows no measure,
From the golden store of Fate
God, in His great love and wisdom,
Made the rugged Granite State;
Made the lakes, the fields, the forests;
Made the Rivers and the rills;
Made the bubbling, crystal fountains
Of New Hampshire's Granite Hills
Refrain:
Old New Hampshire, Old New Hampshire
Old New Hampshire Grand and Great
We will sing of Old New Hampshire,
Of the dear old Granite State
Builded he New Hampshire glorious
From the borders to the sea;
And with matchless charm and splendor
Blessed her for eternity.
Hers, the majesty of mountain;
Hers, the grandeur of the lake;
Hers, the truth as from the hillside
Whence her crystal waters break

Repeat Refrain
 

Honorary NH State Songs

  • "New Hampshire, my New Hampshire" (1963) with words by Julius Richelson and music by Walter P. Smith.
  • "New Hampshire Hills" (1973) with words by Paul Scott Mowrer and music by Tom Powers.
  • "Autumn in New Hampshire" (1977) with words and music by Leo Austin.
  • "New Hampshire's Granite State" (1977) with words and music by Anne B. Currier.
  • "Oh, New Hampshire (you're my home)" (1977) with words and music by Brownie McIntosh.
  • "The Old Man of the Mountain" (1977) with words and music by Paul Belanger.
  • "The New Hampshire State March" (1977) with words and music by Rene Richards.
  • "New Hampshire Naturally" (1993) with words and music by Rick Shaw and Ron Shaw.
New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated (RSA) 3:7
Lyrics courtesy State of NH web site

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