Of all the national anthems across the globe, The Star Spangled Banner might be most difficult to sing.
Its melody spans one and a half octaves. For the average vocalist it’s a challenge. Francis Scott Key’s words set to John Stafford Smith’s melody tells the story of the attack on Fort McHenry during the War of 1812.
Key witnessed the bombardment by the British, but the American soldiers defended the fort and the flag bore witness to continued freedom.
Seventy-seven years later, the Star Spangled Banner became the official tune to be played at the raising of the flag by order of Secretary of the Navy Benjamin F. Tracy. It wasn’t until 1931 that the song became our national anthem.
We hear the anthem performed before sporting events. Many times fans drown out the final words with “play ball!” or “Oklahoma.” When this happens, the anthem is diminished a tiny bit.
It is especially moving when our athletes stand on the podium at the Olympics and we hear it.
The stirring of emotions and pride well up inside, as the final line is sung - O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave. Athletes find it difficult to hold back tears of pride.
There have been a couple of occasions when I was asked to sing our national anthem. It was a privilege and an honor. It was nerve racking as well.
The nerves were not about hitting the high note at the end, but making sure I didn’t rearrange the words.
Time and time again, we’ve seen artists hiccup the song. It is very easy to do.
When I hear the anthem, I feel a sense of pride. I reflect on how fortunate I am to live in a country that affords each one of its citizens freedom. No other country allows its citizens to experience freedom the way we do.
On this Fourth of July, we celebrate the independence our forefathers secured so long ago.
We stand in honor of those brave men and women who defended our freedom. We hold dear the sacrifice they made on our behalf.
We pledge to not take for granted this freedom.
As you watch fireworks light up the sky, just as Key observed the bombs bursting into air, remember those final words he wrote - O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.