National Anthem Day celebrated

British attack Fort McHenry in War of 1812

Erin O'Neill, Reporter

On Sept. 14, 1814, Francis Scott Key composed the lyrics to “The Star-Spangled Banner” after witnessing the massive overnight British attack of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. But it was on Mar. 3  in 1931 “The Star-Spangled Banner” was officially adopted by Congress as the national anthem of the United States.

“I think it just bolsters pride to be an American and what that stands for,” said social studies teacher Ms. Jill Baisinger, who also coaches the State champion We the People team.

Baisinger described how when “The Star-Spangled Banner” is playing, she often considers the pride and the American values that the flag represents. “When I think about the ceremonial aspect of it, that we play this before any major sporting event, I really always think of the Olympics and to see Americans on the podium and their reaction to it,” Baisinger said.

While many Americans would agree that the anthem provides an expression of patriotism, there are some who think the anthem should be replaced with another selection, due in part to its militaristic overtones. Baisinger said, “I’m a strong believer that it shouldn’t be changed because I think it’s important for us to think about the cost for you and me to be here, to have the liberties we have, and have the freedoms we have, the cost of that absolutely comes from battles that have been fought.”

Baisinger discussed that some also criticize the anthem because they consider it to be an unhappy song. Baisinger said that was written in a time of war during a moment of battle, so it’s not a peace time song.

Director of Choirs Mr. Trevor Fanning also shared his thoughts on whether he believes the anthem should be changed. In an email, Fanning said, “Some people have argued that the national anthem should be changed to ‘America the Beautiful.’ But considering how long it took our current anthem to actually be officially recognized, I think most people are happy to have ‘America the Beautiful’ as an additional patriotic song and to keep our tricky but wonderfully powerful anthem the way it is.”

Fanning described that for everyone who learns to sing “The Star Spangled Banner,” he would likely agree that it is a vocally difficult piece. Fanning said, “It requires a very adept range in the singer’s voice, because it starts out very low and goes very high.”

Regarding the style in which the anthem is sung, Fanning said, “For me, the most powerful renditions of the song are when the soloists sing it without too much ornamentation or frills or added bells and whistles as possible. Keep it simple and keep it strong.” Fanning added that Whitney Houston’s 1992 Super Bowl anthem goes down in history as one of the greatest ever because of the way she sang the anthem, and simply let her voice do all the work.

“We think of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ as a sacred piece associated with the freedom, liberty and sacrifice that have made our nation strong, so we want to make sure we sing it with reverence,” Fanning said.

Director of bands Ms. Kathy McCullough, also said that “The Star-Spangled Banner” is a difficult musical piece. She said, “It’s harder to direct than it looks. It looks like it’s very easy to do, but it’s very precise. The drum majors, the students who direct it, are taught very carefully.”

She continued, “It has to be taught, it has to be learned, and so to play it you have to be very careful and to direct it you have to be careful, too.”

McCullough expresses the importance of the anthem to her students every year. She said, “Every year I tell my students that there are two songs that are the most important songs they will play in their four years at Cathedral, and that would be the national anthem and the Cathedral school song.” She added, “They have to be played exactly right. Everybody knows them. If we play them wrong, everybody can tell.”

McCullough added that these two songs are the most important because there is a rich history behind both. She said, “One, you’ll play them the most often; two, they have history, the school history and our national heritage history; and three, again, everybody knows it, and so they feel a connection with those two songs. The school song is your school and your pride, and your national anthem, you feel pride in your country just like when you (recite) the Pledge of Allegiance.

“You treat it with respect every time you play it, every time you direct it, and anytime you perform it,” McCullough said.