Michael Stone Sings The National Anthem[AUDIO]
When I saw the post about the people who have flubbed the National Anthem, Christina Aguilera, being the latest, it reminded me of when I was asked to sing it at a Colorado Eagles game. At the time I wrote this blog about the experience.
O' say can you see, the mumbling masses?
The recent advent of America's Independence Day celebration and all the attendant festivities, including the singing of our national anthem gave rise to reminiscences of an experience I had considered gone and forgotten.
This would be my singing of the National Anthem recently at a sporting event.
It's not unusual for me to go along with the mumbling masses while working my way through this difficult composition. I, in fact, am actually robust in my vocalization of America's national pride expressed in song. Much to my friends and neighbors dismay. However, this is in a group setting, ensemble, a chorus of, shall we say, (and let's be kind) mediocre voices.
So, when I got the call last fall to sing the National Anthem at the opening of our local Professional Hockey Team's game, I was honored and terrified. It had been fifteen years since I'd last sung Francis Scott Key's musically athletic ditty in public. The last public outing was before a baseball game in Wichita Kansas. Could I remember phrases like "O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming!" ? I think I know what a rampart is, but how does it really relate in a world of X-Boxes and Starbucks.
To add to my tentative feelings of performing something so far in my past was the fact that they called me Thursday to sing the following night.
One day to re-learn the National Anthem! Oh sure, I THINK I know the lyrics, BUT one day! This is not the one time in my life I want to pull a Rosanne Barr. Out of tune, wrong lyrics with a quick crotch grab, just doesn't cut it anymore.
So off I go to the Internet, get the lyrics and proceed to sing it all the time, EVERYWHERE. Car, kitchen, shower, morning walk, evening walk, whilst enjoying the pleasure of the porcelain throne. Anywhere. I can not forget those words or invert them into some twisted phrase like; "through the perilous flight o'er the Ruperts we clocked the night light’s last gleaming".
Not only are there the lyrics, but there's the song itself. Likely the most difficult song on the planet to try to sing. This is no Oh Canada. Nope. One must possess operatic capabilities or at the very least Freddie Mercury of Queen vocal technique to work through this torturous composition.
My biggest fear is; "Rockets red glare". Very high for anyone. Aunt Betty used to break glass for miles and cause dogs to flee into the hills when those notes approached.
Not to worry. I had that figured out. Start the song LOW...Oh say can you see (bass notes apply here) and all is good. The "Rockets Red Glare" is nowhere near as difficult.
The night has arrived. No less than THREE attendants escort me to my queue position at the edge of the ice. Then I see them. SEVEN THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED screaming hockey fans. This is not your weekend badminton crowd. Nope they're expecting something.
The red carpet is rolled on to the ice. Me, all the time very lowly (bass notes) "Oh Say Can You See" to myself...La La La La... Keep it low at the start. Bass notes...Bass notes...
I tentatively step onto the red carpet, knowing that the slightest mis-step means I'm on a glacial surface capable of taking me out like a toothless defenseman. The intro, the bright lights in my eyes the crowd hushes and then I begin.
"Oh say can you see"
OH NO! NO! NO! Not me!
I've begun the song at least TWO full steps above my voices' acceptable tolerance level! Two full steps. That means when "Rockets Red Glare" shows up I'll be screeching like , oh don't even think it. Yes; Rosanne Barr at a Nationally televiised baseball game.
Funny how time slows down in panicky situations. All of the sudden fifty seconds seems like three hours of Alan Greenspan discussing MY checkbook.
But here it comes. "The Rockets Red Glare" ... By this time the knees are literally knocking. Just like you'd see in a cartoon. I can barely stand. It MUST be obvious. I could be be the driving force behind one of those jiggly weight loss machines.
Then, I realize, hey, I hit it. OK, it was a little strained, but "Rockets Red Glare" is now fading behind me and all that remains is "O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave". Nothing to me, a seasoned professional.
I'm done, the crowd goes wild, they love me. It must be me, not the fact that all the ceremony is FINALLY finished and the real reason they came , the game, is about to begin.
Lights out, attendants hold me up as I quiver and attempt to actually walk on legs that only moments before had been agitating like a washing machine in spin cycle. Great, they say, never knowing the near disaster that almost befell the opening of the Colorado Eagles Hockey game.
In fact here's some archived audio of The World's One and Only Blues Weatherman, Lead Belly Louie giving me tips on how to sing it. I hope you enjoy!