Tuesday, March 8, 2011

"Singing A Different Tune"

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How many of us have watched the beginning of a baseball or football game or , God forbid, the Superbowl, and saw and heard our national anthem absolutely butchered by singers, both amateur and professional.  The latest catastrophe was the Christine Aguillera mishap as she seemed more focused on adding 16 intonations for every syllable to affect a "soulful" rendition and ended up blowing the lyrics.  It was embarrassing to watch.

These butcheries of our anthem are not intentional.  To begin with, the Star Spangled Banner is very, very difficult to sing.   The performer must march through the lyrics while changing keys in mid-performance and the song is awkward and, musically, lacks a smoothness and evenness that is more pleasing to the ear.

Now, don't get me wrong.  The Star Spangled Banner can be stirring when played by a good marching band or by an orchestra but, lyrically and musically, it is very hard to sing.

So why, I ask do we have to have the Star Spangled Banner as our national anthem.  If one's response is that "it's tradition", I would say, well...not a very long tradition.  The SSB didn't officially become our national anthem until 1931! 

So what are the alternatives?  Well, we have a perfectly lovely "America, America" but my choice would be "America The Beautiful" by Katherine Bates.  The music is lush and the words make you just fall in love with America all over again.  An American travelling this beautiful country can attest to the appropriateness of the song's lovely descriptive phrases.  Too, in an age when the world is getting smaller, and when America is learning to be more careful of "foreign adventure", America The Beautiful speaks of our love for the most special and unique place on earth.  There's a stirring tribute to our patriots who gave their lives to preserve our land and who cannot hear America The Beautiful and not see those "purple mountain's majesty above a fruited plain"! 

So, I would love to see us confine the Star Spangled Banner to the 4th of July celebrations and to the parade field, right along those stirring John Phillip Sousa marches.  I am not the first and only one to propose this, the argument over our anthem has been going on for 80 years since Congress officially selected the SSB as our national anthem.  You may not agree but this old military retiree loves the SSB but would vote for America The Beautiful as our national anthem. 

Even if you disagree with me, just read the lyrics to America The Beautiful and tell me they are not lovely and so descriptive of this beautiful country!

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

NOTE:  I would love for you to leave your comments here.  Go to the comments block and tell me your choice for our national anthem!


Crystal said...

I completely agree. I have always felt that America the Beautiful would be a better anthem and inspires a greater sense of patriotic pride. The last time we were in Colorado, we were lucky enough to take a train ride up Pike's Peak mountain which is the same train route that Bates took when she was inspired to write the lyrics. The view really is breathtaking. It was an unforgettable experience.

A Modest Scribler said...

My favorite stanza is "oh beautiful for patriot dream....:)

Anonymous said...

i agree