Your article about the huge effort of the National Association for Music Education to teach citizens the words to "The Star-Spangled Banner" states that the campaign enlists the aid of teachers and lawmakers, with Laura Bush as honorary chairperson. A simpler solution is to stop having it sung solely by pop musicians, who use it as a most commercial and unpatriotic exhibition of their inappropriate styles, and give it back to the people.
In my youth, we all sang the anthem. When the band played it at a football game, the stadium erupted in song, and in the style in which it was intended. We sang with gusto and with our hands over our hearts. So it's a stretch to reach that high note on "free," but what exhilaration the effort produces! And what a sound when 50,000 U. S. citizens sing it together; that's the sound of patriotism.
In the award ceremonies of the Olympics last summer, the recording of our anthem was so meek that, when the texture thinned at the words "And the rockets' red glare," many in the audience, thinking that it had ended, applauded. That recording had been used so that the normally stirring anthem would not give the impression that ours was an aggressive country. And people were not inspired to sing, so accustomed were they to standing mute during a pop singer's butchering of the anthem. By contrast, when Israeli and Greek athletes stood in the center of the podium, their compatriots sang their national anthems thunderously.
We, the people, don't need music educators, lawmakers, and the First Lady to teach us the words to our national anthem. Put us together in a stadium, a gymnasium, or a concert hall, and start the music. Invite us to sing, and whoever doesn't know the words will learn them from the rest of us. But even an enthusiastic "la-la-la" feels more fervently patriotic than does listening to some unfeeling MTV idol. Let us sing it again, and we'll show you, with tones ringing from our hearts, what our country means to us!
John B. d'Armand
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