I’ve sung it for men’s and women’s basketball, for gymnastics and for baseball, but I’ve never had an experience like singing the national anthem from a 5-meter diving platform, in front of Olympic swimmers.
I got the email about a week ahead of time, and my first thought was, sure, why not? We had a wedding on Saturday (NOT ours), and we were planning to shop for couches and go to dinner for Valentine’s Day. The time dovetailed perfectly.
It was about three days ahead of time when Christian looked up from the sports section at dinner and said, “You know, this thing you’re singing for, it’s a really big deal, right?”
Well, it’s big. The Grand Prix is a series of meets, and all the big names compete. Michael Phelps was missing this year, of course, but Katie Hoff was there and Ryan Lochte, among others. On the way down to the pool we walked past a really tall guy wearing a warmup suit that said “Israeli swim team.”
I’ve never stood on a diving platform before, let alone eight months pregnant. I’m not particularly afraid of heights, but I did have a moment’s vertigo when I first walked out to the edge of the platform suspended over a midnight-blue pool, which (I was informed by Ben, the event coordinator) is sixteen feet deep and painted darker than usual so that divers can keep their “up” straight from their “down” when they’re somersaulting in the air. I decided that good head for heights or no, caution is the better part of valor. I stopped about 2 feet from the edge. J I spent ten minutes watching these powerful swimmers stroke back and forth across the diving pool, warming up at speeds that looked very relaxed, until you got to thinking about it.
I can sing the national anthem in my sleep, but when it comes time to sing it solo in front of famous people, words have a way of vanishing—especially when they make no sense, as is the case with the national anthem. J I spent the entire ten minutes going over and over the troublesome phrases.
When it was over, Ben let us watch the first three races from the edge of the pool. It was really an incredible experience, to be poolside watching these swimmers compete. Definitely among the cooler experiences I’ve had as a musician. Christian and I stood three feet from the parade of athletes walking along the pool for the final heat, watching Katie Hoff bob her head, wearing her fur-lined boots, and slapping hands as she passed. We got to see the remote unit they use to start the races. We got a whole lesson in how things work behind the scenes—pools with movable bulkheads, strobe lights, coaches shouting instructions right next to us. Very cool stuff.
This is not particularly related to any of my usual topics—nor is it particularly well-written or insightful, I’m afraid…but it was just too interesting an experience not to share.