“The Star Spangled Banner” is the little black dress of anthems. It can be dressed up with glittery orchestration or dressed down with a solo voice. It can be slinky on-the-town wear with lots of Mariah Carey-like yodeling or it can be more of a black church robe.
For a waltz it is a versatile tune. While it is sung often, it is a hard song to sing well; it needs a disclaimer: “Caution: rugged high-pitched terrain ahead; proceed with caution, confidence and musical decorum”. While I have never been a fan of the lyrics: “rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air” there is something about all of that modulation in one song that can cause one to get giddily happy about one’s country.
So far away from the home key, the atmosphere gets a little thinner.
I like to think about “The Star Spangled Banner” as a community vocal warm up exercise to prepare the gestalt for all of the hootin’ and hollerin’ to be done for the main event.
I am not overly familiar with the anthems of the worlds , but there are two that have stuck in my musical craw. These are anthems that cause me sing loudly the words that I do know, mumble the ones that I don’t and melodically attempt to balderdash my way through the tune, because I really really, really want the song to like me.
When I hear this anthem, I grab the closest mug of whatever I am drinking and swing it wildly. I just like the melody of this tune. So compact and accessible to the seasoned nightingale and the less confident warbler. While I do not have this anthem committed to memory, I confidently start the song with a victorious “O Canada!” and then it goes down hill from there. In my zeal to enjoy the tune, in a pinch, I have mumbled through the second line “your bears are really big” in lieu of “our home and native land”. Well, both lines are true….right?
God Bless Africa/Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika
I think I first heard this melody in a documentary about apartheid in South Africa. The haunting melody sung in Isicathamiya (a capella Zulu singing) is akin to listening to Dr Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. It is an economic melody that captures the sighs of overcoming. The construction of the song in several languages embodies the diversity of South Africa.
“Lord bless our nation,
Stop wars and sufferings,
Save it, save our nation,
The nation of South Africa — South Africa.”
To me, this song sounds like church on a good day.
This is my Home aka Finlandia
I had to learn this song for a special event recently, and I was so touched by it’s magnanimity that I want it to be a national anthem for someone, somewhere! This song is often associated with folk maven Joan Baez. The lyrical arms of this song are so large that it deserves to be sung often and loudly.
This is my song, O God of all the nations,
A song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
Here are my hopes, my dreams, my sacred shrine.
But other hearts in other lands are beating,
With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.
Any anthems of the world strike your fancy?
Enjoy the changing leaves and whatever changes that you are going through. Hope to see you soon.