The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

20 February 2006

Bombs, bursting in air

Good advice from Baldilocks:

If you’re a professional singer and you're asked to sing the Star-Spangled Banner at the Super Bowl or the NBA All-Star Game or at one of the games in the NBA Finals, the NHL Finals or the World Series, do yourself and your audience's ears a favor: rehearse. Many times.

The temporarily-reunited Destiny’s Child sang the song at [the] NBA All-Star Game and, aside from wowing all of the male on-lookers by looking good (you go, girls), they sang a harmony-laden and excellent version of the Banner — they didn't just rely on the fact they are very good singers; it was obvious that they practiced, over and over again.

This would seem even more imperative for singers farther down on the food chain performing at smaller events, but I wonder sometimes.

The Hornets radio broadcast times its pre-tipoff features in such a way as to miss whoever is doing the National Anthem: generally, you catch the last four or six bars, after which Sean Kelley does his salute to the Armed Forces. One game this month, the timing was off somewhere, and we got to hear almost the entire anthem, and my thoughts at the time were running along the lines of "So this is what Mariah Carey would sound like if a coyote were chewing her foot off."

There are only so many notes in "The Star-Spangled Banner." Unless you know you can sing as well as Destiny's Child — and you probably can't — you probably shouldn't try to triple that number for the sake of melisma. It will not work, and people's ears will hurt.

Posted at 7:47 AM to Almost Yogurt


THE STAR SPANGLED BANNER must real bother the 70s peace pansies they want to replace it with some stupid song like THE AGE OF AQUARIUS

Posted by: spurwing plover at 10:46 AM on 20 February 2006

Which is not that much easier to sing, either.

Posted by: CGHill at 10:50 AM on 20 February 2006

The Star-Spangled Banner is notorious for frustrating singers because it requires a range of an octave and a half of useful and powerful notes. (The lowest note is "Say" in "Oh, say can you see", repeating in several words like "gleaming," "stripes," and "streaming." The highest note is "glare" in "rockets' red glare," repeated in "free" in "land of the free," both notes you can't shy away from.)

An octave and a half is the entire useful range for many singers, though with a lot of training, professionals can extend that to two octaves. This varies by person, of course, but some people with nice voices are lucky to sing the entire Banner at all. If the chosen key doesn't exactly match your useful range, you're gonna squawk at one end or the other.

It's slightly easier for a capella singers to go there because they can tailor the key to their range. Those who have to sing with accompaniment are stuck with the key of the background musicians. Students who audition to sing the national anthem at OU football games have to sing it in B-flat. If the choice is finding student vocalists who can match the range, or getting the 300-plus member Pride of Oklahoma to memorize a new arrangement in a different key, well, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one.

For those tracking MIDI note numbers, the range required for the John Higgins arrangement of The Star-Spangled Banner heard in Norman is Bb3 to F4 as written, optionally an octave lower for male singers. Auditions for vocal music students are early in the fall semester; see Dr. Curtis for details if you qualify.

Posted by: Matt at 1:34 PM on 20 February 2006

An octave and a half is about an octave more than my range, alas.

Posted by: CGHill at 1:39 PM on 20 February 2006

Honestly, I give credit to any singer attempting The Star-Spangled Banner. If they were trying to cover a popular song just for the heck of it that's one thing - but the national anthem? I don't think any singer should feel like they have to sing it like Destiny's Child, or not even bother. It's our national anthem! Sing it with pride! And hats off for a performance in front of thousands, whether you sound like a million dollar superstar or not. Just my thoughts anyway.

Posted by: MikeSwi... at 2:01 PM on 20 February 2006

I think they should bring back that fat-lady opera singer that does the anthem in all those movies about baseball in the 40's and 50's.

(And, yeah, Age of Aquarius, or anything from Hair or Jefferson Airplane requires some talent to accomplish, too.)

*Leeeeet the sun shine!*

Posted by: aldahlia at 3:16 PM on 20 February 2006

If you are feeling particularly adventurous, try The Star-Spangled Banner by Igor Stravinsky.

As I said a while back, "It's exactly what you fear it is."

Posted by: Matt at 8:07 PM on 22 February 2006