Sarnia Chérie

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Sarnia Cherie is used as the national anthem of the Bailiwick of Guernsey. 'Sarnia' is a traditional Latin name for the island, hence, the title translates as 'Dear Guernsey'. George Deighton wrote Sarnia Cherie in 1911, with Domenico Santangelo subsequently composing the tune later that year. The song was first performed at St Julian’s Theatre in November 1911.[1]

George Deighton first came to Guernsey in 1911, to be the manager of St Julian's Theatre. Although only in the island for three short years, he loved the place and people so much that he wrote a poem entitled "Guernsey Dear", and asked Domenico Santangelo to set it to music. He soon composed the romantic waltz tune which was given the name "Sarnia Cherie" and thus, Guernsey's 'national anthem' was complete.
It was in the St Julian's Theatre that Deighton was to be given a benefit night; he thought it a good idea to have the song performed there for the first time and it was in November 1911 that the strains of "Sarnia Cherie" were premiered to a local audience. The song was destined to travel far and wide thereafter.
It met with great success when sung by Wilfred Shirvell, popular hotelier friend of the composer. Soon afterwards, it was decided to have the song printed, and Santangelo entrusted the first order to a French music publisher of his acquaintance, F. D. Marchetti.
Over the years the demand for Sarnia Cherie steadily grew, especially among local people who sent copies to friends and relatives settled overseas. Its popularity increased during and after the last years of the war when the nostalgic tune stirred patriotic feelings and was adopted by expatriates as the Guernsey national anthem.
It is interesting to recall that in 1942, during the German Occupation, Santangelo received from an English friend, through the Red Cross, the following message which has been passed, with surprising amiability, by the strict German authorities, and appeared in the Guernsey Evening Press on March 26th of that year, under the heading: Sarnia Cherie sung throughout England:
"Congratulations on Sarnia Cherie being sung throughout England as accepted national anthem and rallying song for exiles. Delighted you are continuing music. Greetings to all".
As it is generally known, Sarnia Cherie is now sung and performed in many parts of the world wherever Guernsey people are gathered.[2]

In 2005, the then Chief Minister, Laurie Morgan, called for an updated version, which seems to have been abandoned after it met with near-universal opposition.

The sheet music has been republished (c) 2009 Ray Lowe, Sark.

A CD of 13 renditions of the song has been released. Included on the CD is a recording from 9 May 1945, when British Troops landed in St Peter Port to Liberate the island after 5 years of German Occupation during World War II. CD available from the Guernsey Visitor Centre, St. Peter Port, Guernsey.

Sarnia; dear Homeland, Gem of the sea.
Island of beauty, my heart longs for thee.
Thy voice calls me ever, in waking, or sleep,
Till my soul cries with anguish, my eyes ache to weep.
In fancy I see thee, again as of yore,
Thy verdure clad hills and thy wave beaten shore.
Thy rock sheltered bays, ah; of all thou art best,
I'm returning to greet thee, dear island of rest.

CHORUS

Sarnia Cherie. Gem of the sea.
Home of my childhood, my heart longs for thee.
Thy voice calls me ever, forget thee I'll never,
Island of beauty. Sarnia Cherie.
I left thee in anger, I knew not thy worth.
Journeyed afar, to the ends of the earth.
Was told of far countries, the heav'n of the bold,
Where the soil gave up diamonds, silver and gold.
The sun always shone, and "race" took no part,
But thy cry always reached me, its pain wrenched my heart.
So I'm coming home, thou of all art the best.
Returning to greet thee, dear island of rest.

CHORUS

Guernesiais version

A version in Guernesiais (Guernsey-French), Guernsey's own Norman French, has also been made:

Sarnia, chière patrie, bijou d'la maïr,
Ile plloinne dé biautai, dans d'iaoue si cllaire
Ta vouaix m'appeule terjous, mon tcheur plloin d'envie,
Et mon âme té crie en poine, mes iars voudraient t'veis.
Quaend j'saonge, j'té vaie derchier, mesme comme t'étais d'vànt,
Tes côtis si vaerts et ton sabllaon si bllànc,
Tes bànques et tes rotchets. Ah! Dé toutes la pus belle.
Mon réfuge et mon r'pos, chière île qu'est si belle.
Sarnia Chérie, ma chière patrie,
D'l'île dé ma nèissance, mon tcheur a envie
Ta vouaix m'appeule terjours,
Et j'pense à té chaque jour.
Ile plloinne dé biautai, Sarnia Chérie.
Sàns saver ta valeur, j'm'en fus en colère,
Je v'yagis si llian, à l'aute but dé la terre.
I m'dirent dé biaux pays, et j'm'en fus brâment
Oueque la terre baillait à haut d'l'or et dé l'argent.
Nous 'tait tous amis et i fit bal chaque jeur,
Mais ta vouaix m'applait terjours, a m'déteurtait l'tcheur.
Ch'est pourtchi qué j'm'en vians. Ah! té veis, la millaeure.
Ma chière île dé répos, dé chenna j'sis saeure.
Sarnia Chérie, ma chière patrie,
D'l'île dé ma nèissance, mon tcheur a envie
Ta vouaix m'appeule terjours,
Et j'pense à té chaque jour.
Ile plloinne dé biautai, Sarnia Chérie.

References

  1. Sarnia Cherie » History & Heritage, This Is Guernsey, retrieved 15 Apr 2011
  2. The Song - How It All Began, Sleeve notes to the sheet music

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