I’ve been singing the national anthem at sporting events for six or seven years–on again, off again, depending on the state of my exhaustion level on the day of tryouts. And I’ve been a pastoral musician for two -plus decades, which means every time I get up to sing the anthem, I want nothing more than to start out by saying, “Please join in singing…”
On Super Bowl night, I was cooking sausages and onions in the kitchen when I heard Christina Aguilera flub up. “Did she just screw up the national anthem?” I said. I couldn’t believe it.
Our national anthem is hard to sing, with words that make no sense, and IMNSHO we ought to be singing something like America the Beautiful instead. However, that would take an act of Congress and we all know they’re too busy bickering about other things.
In the meantime, soloists routinely butcher songs that ought to belong to the everyone. For days after Obama’s inaugeration I couldn’t listen to news coverage, because everybody seemed so enthralled by Aretha’s performance that they played it over and over and over: “My coun…..(GASP, because it’s far more impressive if I only sing two syllables before I breathe!)…TRY ‘TIS of thee…”
It’s time to stop having soloists do these things altogether. The more life becomes a performance, the less engaged we are. And that’s a tragedy, because over time, as people’s opportunities to sing in community are pre-empted, they come to believe they can’t sing.
And because someone else has already written this argument more eloquently than I can, I direct you to the St. Louis Post Dispatch’s arts columnist, Sarah Bryan Miller. As she says, it’s time to take back the national anthem. And everything else, besides.