Our National Anthem
… Pure and Simple!!!!
February 4, 2002
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 Americans!\
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
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.
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 understand. Sad.
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 Banner!
O SAY ... may “WE THE PEOPLE" …
SING OUR NATIONAL ANTHEM??!!!!
Beverly Smith (Zacharias) Herrington
P.S. For the interested
musician - the Key is A flat!!
The 4th verse ...
thus be it e'er when free men shall stand
Between their lov'd homes and the war's
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
And this be our motto: "In God is our
And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph
O'er the land of the free and the home
of the brave!
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