Monday, February 4, 2013

The Star Spangled Banner

Ah, the national anthem.  Two recent events have put the national song in the national conversation these past weeks;  singer Beyonce lip synching at the inauguration, and the quite long rendition by Alicia Keys in the just past Super Bowl.  It reminded my of something that happened to me about a year ago, when I traveled back to my home state of Vermont.
I really enjoy basketball, and I enjoy supporting school sports too.  My high school alma mater was playing at a nearby school while I was back in my home state for family matters last year.  So I took the short drive to this rival school to take in the game.  As was typical, the game was a boys/girls doubleheader.
Just like here, and most places in the United States, the national anthem, "The Star Spangled Banner" proceeded the athletic endeavors of the evening.
Small town high school hoops.
Most places don't have the talent or wherewithal to do a live anthem for every game.  Usually a recording is used of someone singing, or a band playing an instrumental version.  That was what was on tap this chilly clear evening in a small Vermont town.
Except the tape/CD/record didn't work.  And didn't work.  The silence was painful.  Players were ready to play, spectators ready to cheer, but we could not start until "The Star Spangled Banner" was played.  Silence continued.
Until someone started:  "Oh say can you see by the dawn's early light..."  A capella   No accompaniment.  A little uncertain at first, then gaining confidence as other voices joined in.  "What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?  Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,"  The crowd gained momentum, carefully picking around the part of the song that had stumbled many talented singers.  "O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?  And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
gave proof through the night that our flag was still there."  And finishing with the last words, not drawn out, but sung at the same crisp tempo as the start of the song:  "Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?"  After the last note fell silent, we all looked around at each other, athletic friend and foe, two small towns that had more in common than different.  Then we cheered, for the game was about to start.

Best. Rendition. Ever.