Our National Anthem ...
Pure and Simple!!!!
Imagine you are held (under guard) on the
ship of the enemy. You watch (but primarily hear) the battle that
will seal the fate of your country. You wait through the darkness
of night, not knowing the outcome. Yet in the “dawn’s early light”,
you can see that the symbol of which you are so proud ... “the
star-spangled banner”, the red, white and blue flag of your country
... “was still there”, waving over the battleground, signaling
victory ... the victory that sealed, not the fate of your country,
but its freedom! This is what Francis Scott Key saw on another
September day in 1814, and he was so overcome with the emotion of
that moment, he found an envelope and penned the words to The
Star-Spangled Banner. He did not compose the music, but others
who were moved by the words he had written, combined them with an
old English melody. It became our National Anthem. I wonder
why anyone ever thought it should be?
There are three songs frequently used as
our “national” songs. God Bless America is our national
prayer, America the Beautiful is our national hymn, and
The National Anthem (The Star-Spangled Banner) is our national
anthem. Many would like to replace our current national anthem with
God Bless America ... still it is what it is, and no more ...
a stirring prayer; it is not an anthem. Others would like to
replace our current national anthem with America the Beautiful
... but it is what it is, and no more; a stirring hymn, it is not an
anthem. The National Anthem is what it is; it is our anthem,
and perhaps there is good reason, for its words express the very
moments we became this great nation, why we are free, why we are
Some say that The National Anthem is
too difficult to sing. I say they are wrong ... I know they are
wrong! As a church musician/organist, I have used The National
Anthem as often as I have found a reason. I play it in an
uplifting, march-like tempo and in a key the congregation can sing.
With no exceptions, the people lift the roof singing their anthem,
and what’s more ... they love singing it and are thankful for the
opportunity to do it.
For so long we have not been given the
opportunity to really sing our anthem. We have had to “listen” to
entertainers (selected for their recording ability) who were more
interested in “performing” the anthem (slipping and sliding in and
around the melody with nauseating embellishments), than to sing the
anthem in a way the American people could join them. We have
literally been silenced by the people who have chosen these
entertainers to “perform our National Anthem” as well as the
entertainers themselves. Sad.
I have dreamed of living during a time when
I would hear the American people sing our anthem as other nations
sing theirs - with pride and gusto! And the truth is, we had our
chance to turn it around after September 11th! For example, I
attended the first baseball game played at Turner Field after the
September 11th attack. Libby Whittemore, a well-known
Atlanta cabaret entertainer, stepped up to the plate, and without
embellishment sang The National Anthem from her heart and in a key
the fans could join ... and for the FIRST TIME ... I heard the
people sing ... REALLY SING their anthem! It was a stirring
moment! WOW! An entertainer who was more interested in the anthem
and the people than herself!!! But alas, the opportunity was
short-lived. During the first Super Bowl, with the tattered flag,
which had been scooped from the embers of our September battlefield,
flying over thousands of Americans who could and would have
joined as a united voice to sing our anthem, they could not ... WE
could not. We had to “listen” to a flashy performer who did not
So how can we get our nation singing our
anthem with gusto? It could be so simple ... an orchestra, a
marching band, an accompaniment recording in a singable key - then
let the American people be the “featured group”. Unfortunately, it
is a rarity to find an orchestra or band willing to select a
singable key for the people. For they would rather select a key
that enhances their performance with brilliancy of tone. Wish they
would understand we’d much prefer the opportunity to sing our anthem
than to listen to it played in a range only those in musical theatre
or opera could attain.
If you still feel our anthem should be
changed to something more beautiful, or singable, or for whatever
reason you may have, please read the words of the infrequently sung
last verse of our anthem (there are 4). These words have never been
more meaningful. They bring together the reason we have a nation,
the beauty of our nation, and a prayer for our nation. No other
song testifies so strongly and honors the birth of our nation, under
God, with liberty and justice for all as does The Star-Spangled
O SAY CAN YOU SEE? ...
PEOPLE" … NEED to SING OUR NATIONAL ANTHEM!!!!
P.S. For the interested musician -
the Key is A flat or G
The 4th verse
thus be it e'er when free men shall stand
Between their lov'd homes and the
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may
the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Pow'r that has made and
preserv'd us a nation.
Then conquer we must when our cause
it is just;
And this be our motto: "In God is
And the Star-Spangled Banner in
triumph shall wave,
O'er the land of the free and the
home of the brave!
~ Francis Scott Key
- 200 years old!