I’m jazzed about it because I sang The Star Spangled Banner to open a ball game this week. I know, I was surprised the NCAA Basketball Tournament organizers knew about me!
Okay, so it was for my son’s high school soccer game, but it was exciting because it’s the first time I’ve ever sung the national anthem at a public event. I’ve sung many times in many venues, but The Star Spangled Banner has so much history and expectation to it, even if it’s only for a small crowd of people huddled on bleachers during a spring afternoon snowstorm.
At the beginning of the week I got an email from the head soccer mom explaining she needed people to sing the national anthem at home games. My interest was piqued. My days as a wedding band singer are decades past and I miss the thrill of being a gazebo rock star.
Should I do it?
Would that be too pretentious being a parent of a player?
It would probably embarrass the crap out of my son, but that would be a bonus. And I’d keep it on the down low beforehand so I could see his reaction when they announce over the PA system, “All rise and direct your attention to the flag. Please welcome Scotty’s mom who will sing our national anthem.”
I wrote an affirmative email response, then saved it to the “Draft” box and let it sit.
Plus, I made the mistake of looking up Whitney Houston’s legendary 1991 Super Bowl XXV performance. She nailed it. She owned it. She turned an almost-two-century-year-old song into a Billboard Top 20 pop hit after singing it!
Who was I to try and compete with that?
It’s such a familiar song, most people don’t realize how vocally challenging it is. For starters, the song spans an octave and a half, which many vocalists don’t account for when choosing a fatally high opening note. The first melodic phrase jumps down a major triad, then jumps up a major triad, then up to the octave, then up to a major third above that, and so on. The song itself is not very melodic, and the lyrics don’t fit the music very well because it was originally written as a poem, with an irregular rhyme scheme no less, then fit to an existing song.
What all that music mumbo jumbo means is there’s a reason why so many people, professionals even, slaughter the piece in stadiums across our great nation.
But I sent the email. And I sang the song.
I started on a carefully-chosen note and hit every note after that. The look on my son’s face when he heard his mother’s name announced was epic. When I dared to ask what he thought of my performance he said, “It was actually decent. You didn’t sing it all slow and over-dramatic, or with a bunch of show-offish runs. I was worried you’d choke on the high note or be pitchy, but you weren’t. Overall, not too embarrassing.”
We’ve watched way too much American Idol.