When composer/conductor John Williams opened last Friday’s broadcast of “A Capitol Fourth” on NPR and WUKY-FM, he offered his “new arrangement” of our national anthem, the “Star Spangled Banner.”
In that spirit I’d like to offer my own arrangement---get rid of it.
First, as written, the “Banner” is UNsingable by 90% of Americans. Those high notes, much too high notes (Williams reworked them into a lower key I think) are just too, too much. We either mumble through them, or pass altogether while the counter-tenors and altos have a field day. What good is a national anthem that citizens can’t sing? It’s supposed to rally us, not cause us to cringe as those near us try to sing it.
Second, it’s music is an old tavern drinking song..an old ENGLISH drinking song. That’s right, good old F. S. Key penned his poem of defiance to Great Britain and then used a Brit song for his music. Lotta sense there.
Third, it celebrates just one event in America’s long and storied history..the battle of Fort McHenry in 1814…(part of the War of 1812 most historians would like the US to forget, ‘cause we lost it. Our history books pass over how the Brits burned Washington---we lost our National Capital in this war and we want to observe it in song?
Fourth, if this music deserves to be our National Anthem why did it take until 1931 for Congress to pass a resolution making it so??? 118 years we had no such anthem, while using “Hail Columbia” and “My Country Tis of Thee” (a much worthier song) and others as stand-ins for a National Anthem.
Congress got it wrong in ’31…no surprise surely..but now that Mr. Williams has suggested a “new arrangement”, why not start all over..find a better song, at least one that most of us can sing…before we shout “Play Ball.”
I'm just sayin'...NOPE...not singin'...