It makes me wince when I think about all the butchered solo renditions I’ve heard at Independence Day celebrations, meetings, conventions, sporting events and other such gatherings. Some people just shouldn’t try to sing that song solo. And, frankly, no one would want to stand next to me in a group singing the national anthem. I “scoop” (my high school choir director’s term) drastically in trying to make the octave and a half range of the anthem.
It makes bashful baritone-bass singers out of most males with untrained voices. Two years of high school choir is not enough training, even with a fair-to-middling voice, to dare dream about soloing on that song. Talk about “Spangled” getting mangled.
But, nothing’s worse than some cute child (boy or girl), whose momma and diddy have told them they WILL BE A STAR SINGER, at a local gathering trying to sing this most difficult of songs. It’s awful and a disservice not only to the audience but to the singer as well.
Some professional entertainers, realizing the difficulty in singing the song in the manner it was set to music, come up with arrangements patterned after for their voices and style. Some stiff-collared “patriots” take umbrage at such “butchering” of our national anthem.
However, there is no public anthem or song more stirring than a good choral rendition or a fine marching band performing The Star Spangled Banner. That’ll get your heart pumping, the juices flowing and the goose bumps rising.
But, ordinary folks with untrained voices like me not only shouldn’t solo on the anthem, they shouldn’t stand at a microphone at some public meeting and “lead” the audience in singing any song, but particularly the Star Spangled Banner.
I think, perhaps, that at least part of the reason this song became our national anthem had to do with the circumstances under which it was written.
FRANCIS SCOTT KEY penned the poem during a battle in the War of 1812, and much later it was set to music.
Key, a Washington lawyer (wouldn’t you know it), went aboard a British ship in Baltimore harbor blockading the port. Key was held prisoner as the ship bombarded Fort McHenry and, as the poem went, amidst the “rockets red glare and bombs bursting in air,” his patriotism spilled forth in his mind and he wrote the words.
After the war, a print shop (of course) in Baltimore published the poem along with, get this, music from a British song. As time passed, the song was used more and more and became a public favorite. The U.S. military chose it to be played during the raising and lowering of the American flag.
Finally, in its inimitable way, Congress dubbed it the national anthem in 1931. Yeah, less than 100 years ago.
There seems to be a considerable segment in our country who advocate changing the national anthem to something like America The Beautiful, you know, “O, beautiful for spacious skies and amber waves of grain…”
Whut’s ‘amber waves,’ Bubba asks.
NEVER MIND. The country doesn’t need a new ruckus.
So, sitting here hammering away on the keyboard on this Independence Day, patriotism stirs within me and I begin to warble our national anthem.
All of a sudden, I am besieged by a mournful howl from Le Pup Savage, Sawyer, also known as “Daddy’s Puppy,” and “Mama’s Baby Dog.”
That’s followed quickly by a PJ-clad and sleepy-eyed Mama from the other end of the house, wanting to know what I’ve done to The Baby Dog. He was wailing, as dogs do, because my voice affected him the same way ambulance and police sirens do…it hurts his ears.
I vowed to only sing it from henceforth in two circumstances: 1) when I’m driving the car alone and listening to the radio (full volume) and , 2) in congregational or crowd singing, and in a low, mumbling manner only.
It’s the least I can do for the other two pairs of ears in our household.
Willis Webb is a retired community newspaper editor-publisher of more than 50 years experience. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.