Confessions of a National Anthem Singer

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christina aguilera

Image by D.S.B via Flickr

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.Β 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.Β As she says, it’s time to take back the national anthem. And everything else, besides.

11 thoughts on “Confessions of a National Anthem Singer

  1. Shelley Strickland

    Not only should we all be singing it together, but when it is sung solo, please don’t jazz it up and see how many octaves you can hit….just sing the song!

  2. Amen! And, the song is really hard to sing – with no music even the best of signers often changes keys about 4 times! I stopped doing it because the nerves almost killed me every time!

      • LOL Well “gleaming” refers to the twilight, and means a subdued glimmer. The light was fading…

        And “streaming” is a continuous flow… so the flag was gallantly streaming throughout the fight. Poor brave flag. πŸ™‚

      • Yes, but that’s far too much logic while you’re standing on the Tiger head with several thousand people listening to you silently, and you’re mid-phrase. πŸ™‚ I just have to go “GGGGleaming, SSSSStreaming, alphabetical order!”

  3. That’s funny about Aretha Franklin. I had to go to YouTube and remind myself how she sounded. But, once again, I couldn’t hear anything for that really, really loud bow on her head.

  4. I get confused singing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” because there are so many familiar verses!
    Without the sheet music, I always mix them up. LOL

    With so many patriotic songs to choose from…
    “America, the Beautiful” is a nice alternative. πŸ™‚
    One that doesn’t involve references to a war waged against our now-allies.

    The other simple option would be “My Country, Tis of Thee”, but since it shares the same melody as the UK anthem, it might confuse people at international sporting events. LOL

  5. I’m sure that if you paid a celebrity singer to get up before the Superbowl and sing Mary Had a Little Lamb s/he’d managed to make it sound hard to sing. I love listening to young children’s choirs sing the Star Spangled Banner-it sounds real, and not all that hard to sing (of course when I tried out for the children’s choir I was the first one in my grade to be sent back to my seat).

  6. That includes standing during the National Anthem with my right hand over my heart and singing the words. .Their argument is that they are being more patriotic — that yelling and screaming makes them a part of the anthem instead of just being a silent bystander.

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