The Star Spangled Banner, our national anthem, was certainly front and center in our lives during the recent Olympics. Each day of the Olympiad in Japan, one or more Americans won gold, and our Star Spangled Banner was proudly played. Even our summer Sunday concerts at Spreckels Park begin with this tribute to Old Glory and country.
People who can’t leave well enough alone have urged changes to our national anthem. Some would replace our Star Spangled Banner because it is too difficult to sing. Others would play it less frequently due to the adage ‘familiarity brings contempt,’ and wonder why we play the anthem at all athletic contests.
I suspect our Star Spangled Banner will remain as is, but I have some reservations on how it is being sung. At times, those honored by rendering the national anthem seem to be trying out for an opera role, even adding musical notes that simply are not there. I must add that the Coronadans who sing our anthem are very very good!
We have all experienced a spectrum of renditions of our Star Spangled banner. Some embarrass us, and some inspire us. I mention just two of the extremes. The nadir of all performances was Roxanne Barr’s infamous rendition at a ballpark here in San Diego. It was a total disgrace.
On the other hand, on Disability Day at Fenway Park in Boston, a young blind man tried his best to sing our Star Spangled Banner. He was half way through our anthem when he lost it completely. After an interminable eight seconds of silence, 38,000 baseball fans picked up the Star Spangled Banner where the lad faltered, and boomed out the lyrics in the greatest chorus I have ever heard. The applause at the end was deafening and lasted a full minute. To see the young man’s grin on the giant TV in center field was priceless, and dried the tears of many. (You can still see it on You Tube). Luckily, for us and the country there are many more ‘highs’ than ‘lows’ in the singing of our Star Spangled Banner.
Obviously I am partial to the Star Spangled Banner, not only because Congress voted to designate the hymn as our national anthem in the year I was born, but more, the familiar strains of the song were played too often and for too many young Marines I knew in Vietnam. And so, perchance you are asked to sing our Star Spangled Banner, please sing it the way it is written. It still means so much to so many.