87 thoughts on “Our national anthem: sporting event version.

  1. Yes! Thank you! It is not my anthem but it is a half decent tune with quite good words & I HATE hearing all those wobbly ‘grace notes’ that soloists seem to add to it whenever there is some big sporting do. Sing it straight as it is written!

      1. And comments are disabled on the youtube video of her performance: oh, how tawdry. There’s a metaphor in here somewhere, and a greater mind than mine can coin it (no pun intended).

  2. I’m not sure just why every sporting event has to be prefaced with the national anthem, but I do know that the last two words of the US anthem are “Play Ball!”

    1. Similarly, why do many civic events, and grade school days, start with the Pledge of Allegiance? I imagine the answer is that it started with the Red Scare, and people are afraid to stop, but it’s really tedious. Whenever I go to the monthly boro (pop ~2,000) meeting I make a point of showing up late so I can avoid it.

      1. Yes, the Pledge is a drudgery.

        I like hearing the national anthem when it’s done right (i.e., not this modern way which was being discussed here). Hearing the anthem is uplifting, I must say. The music is gorgeous.

        Mostly, I think of it as a nice time to reflect on how lucky I am compared to a lot of other people in the world. It is, believe it or not, played at the beginning of every AKC dog show and dog obedience trial in the U.S. Everyone stops in their tracks when it begins (a recording over the speakers). I actually think it’s quite nice to have a few min. to reflect on things. I suspect outside of church, not many people have such opportunities anymore.

        Also, I just heard the other day on NPR or somewhere that the U.S. has more immigrants each year than all other countries combined. Who knew that.
        I think playing the anthem at events is a good thing, in that outside of church, it’s one of the few places where people have a moment to pause and reflect and maybe feel a one-ness with others for a minute or two.

        1. I like that attitude.

          And “done right” to me means cymbals, piccolos, low brass, drums, & everything in between. 🙂

          1. Yes, it usually gives me goosebumps.
            I think that one of the problems with the modern way of singing the anthem is that now the song is all about THEM, not about the country… No, it’s just “look at me”, “ain’t I wonderful what I can do”, “buy my records” and so on. In my life I see a lot more selfishness than I ever did before.

  3. Yeah, it’s caught on here in Australia as well. The friggin’ anthem has to precede every damn sporting event. My hat off to all those sportsmen who refuse to song along.
    …still, not as bad as when winners thank god for their win.

    1. All of the musicians did.

      Back in ’92 I was with the Glassmen Drum and Bugle Corp out of Toledo.

      Chris Tomza wrote a version for us that gave me goose bumps. and I had already played this boring piece at every home football, basketball, parade, and whatever for 7 years.

      Tomza’s version was a like a nine voice chorus of silver angels. It was in hymnal form.

      That is the closest I ever came to being religious.

      1. Are you aware of `yousie-tubsie’ recordings of any of these performances? It sounds well-worth seeking out…as the anodyne for the current “Pop” musically-masturbatory practice of seeing how many pitch changes the singer can cram into a single note / second of TS-SB.

        1. That was in 1991, not 1992. Sorry.

          And No. I don’t know about any recordings.

          Madison Wisconsin it was. Some kind of regional thing. That summer was a blur of long bus rides, stadiums, sleeping on gymnasium floors, eating out of the back of a truck, and long days marching in the sun.

          We rehearsed until it was tight, but when we got to the stadium there was a last minute change and they only sent in the section leads.

          Drum Corps International might have one, but we were too busy for recordings.

          Little known fact, all the best performances are in practice and only witnessed by the musicians.

    2. I got it but then I’m a singer, so the first thing I did was try to sing those dreadful notes and though I’m not American it was really pretty obvious that this was a send-up. I am very much not a fan of this kind of singing, I don’t like doing it and I don’t like listening to it.

  4. For years I’ve hated the way singers mess with that song, and it only seems to be getting worse in recent years. My only beef with your score is that the extra notes don’t go high enough, since most singers seem to use the anthem as an excuse to show how high they can sing.

    I’m going to be sending this out to my chorus, they’ll get a kick out of it!

  5. Why would it matter if she did lip sync? We all know that she is a phenomenal artist and maybe she was sick. Maybe it was too cold for her. What difference does it make? Who cares.

    1. Agreed. And, to my mind, the best performances I’ve ever heard were by the Marine Band, playing quickly. Impressive.

    2. Most likely too cold. Many of the musical renditions on inauguration day — even the classical ones, are “synched” for this reason, especially when expensive instruments are involved. Also instruments don’t stay in tune in cold weather, and it affects wind instruments differently than string instruments.

      There was some manufactured uproar about this four years ago:


  6. I think that some people do get it, but for the benefit of people who don’t read musical notation, this is a tongue-in-cheek representation of the overly self indulgent interpretations often given to the national anthem when sung by actors and singers.

    The general rule seems to be:
    1. never use one note if you can possibly sing 20
    2. you have all the time in the world

    It extreme cases it renders the original virtually unrecognizable.

  7. Funny joke, but yeah, I wouldn’t expect people who don’t often read music (or read it at all) to get it right away.

    1. I can’t read music but I got it–look at all those NOTES! All you have to do is know the National Anthem to see that there’s some disparity here.

      1. What do Beyoncé and Mozart have in common? Too many notes.

        This is all getting a bit Emperor Joseph II. Maybe she was getting paid by the note? Whatever, la Beyoncé isn’t beyond yodelling in the bar-mangled manner of other vibratoid divas.

        Céline Dion, are you next? Ha, wrong nationality. Exsultate, jubilate!

          1. I’d love (Not) to hear her sing the Inuktitut version:

            ᐆ ᑲᓇᑕ!
            ᓇᖕᒥᓂ ᓄᓇᕗᑦ!
            ᐱᖁᔭᑏ ᓇᓚᑦᑎᐊᖅᐸᕗᑦ.
            ᓇᖏᖅᐳᒍ, ᐆ ᑲᓇᑕ,
            ᐆ ᑲᓇᑕ! ᓄᓇᑦᓯᐊ!
            ᓇᖏᖅᐳᒍ ᒥᐊᑎᓂᕆᑉᓗᑎ,
            ᐆ ᑲᓇᑕ, ᓴᓚᒋᔭᐅᖁᓇ!

            Celine Dion: the only warbler who could add a grace-note to an exclamation mark.

  8. The US anthem has a great tune, without doubt. I do think that the range is too great for many untrained singers, though, which detracts somewhat from its impact at sporting events.
    One of the most amazing sounds in the whole world is a packed stadium singing
    Land of my Fathers

    (PS I am not Welsh)
    (PPS All Welsh people are trained singers)

      1. Key had no intention of writing a song. He wrote a poem that was later appended to the tune.

        Can you imagine anyone in a similar circumstance today? Captured by the enemy, watching a bombardment of your troop’s position — writing a POEM?


            1. Diane,

              Key’s poem follows in a long literary tradition of self-glorification or sheer bravery in the face of defeat.

              I think of Thucydides’ ascription of those wondrous Periclean perorations in ‘The Peloponnesian War’; the Aeneid; the Gospels; Augustine’s ‘The City of God’; Dante’s ‘The Divine Comedy’; Chidiock Tichborne’s ‘Lines written the night before his execution’; Henry V’s ‘St. Crispin’s Day’ speech in anticipation of a certain rout; Milton’s post-Restoration poetry; even, post-Key, ‘Dulce et decorum est’ by Owen; the British fetishisation of the spirit of the evacuation of Dunkirk; Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony.

              I would hesitate, Diane, to heroicise Key in view of his theist, not deist, fourth verse, and his subsequent prosecution of an agitator for the emancipation of the slaves.

  9. Stonyground says:

    Search youtube for ‘Rachel Flowers-variations on the American National Anthem’. I can’t provide a link because it will embed automatically and get me into trouble. I found the Mozart version highly entertaining.

  10. As a relatively new student of piano, it came as a shock to me to learn that when I thought I had mastered ‘Oh Susannah’ at Level One, it came back in a newer and more complicated version to learn all over again at Level Three. I thought a tune was a tune — silly me!

    To me your two versions just look like a Level Five and a Level Two.

  11. Oh, Fabrizio Ferrari (and all other real-book-type arrangers): A for effort. But seriously, you all need to pursue a different career. Misspelled leading-tones are a pet-peeve of mine. A pet-peeve I regularly have to put up with, as a choral accompanist.

    Witness the A-flat in the 6th full measure. Tut-tut.

      1. I can almost understand what you’re saying, but could you please try to explain it a bit more? I’m intrigued.

        1. The A-flat should be spelled as a G-sharp. It is the third of an E-major triad. The E-major triad functions as an applied dominant of A-minor. The G-sharp would be the leading tone with respect to A-minor.

          Misspelled leading tones are one of the hallmarks of sloppy musical thinkers.

          1. That’s what I thought you meant. Thanks!

            Meanwhile, am I being really dense for only seeing F sharps & flats above?

              1. I was being really, really dense. 😀

                Whew, long time since I’ve read music…

                It’s fun to know this is called misspelling.

    1. Ha ha, we both have this pet peeve. I missed your post — it wasn’t up yet when I started writing my reply. Glad to know I’m not the only one to notice. 🙂

        1. Indeed, you have to look for harmonies.

          This is a huge problem in jazz arrangements, too, especially in charts that have “mock classical” sections (for whatever reason).

        2. Musical Beef,

          Can you help me out here? I’m from the pop tradition, self-taught (very amateurishly) musical notation, and am in a pop group with a classically-trained Estonian keyboardist.

          If, say, I am teaching her a song in C and the chord of E flat is in the tune and say I want her to play a B flat note, does what you’re saying mean that I should always call it B flat, rather than A sharp? If so, I get your principle, outlined above. Or is it more complicated than that?

          The reason why I ask is that her English isn’t great; and it is sometimes difficult to tell whether the lack of communication is because of that or because of my inadequate nomenclature of the note.


          1. Spelling depends first and foremost on context; that is, the function of the harmony/note in question.

            For example, the errant A-flat above would’ve been correctly spelled as A-flat, even with the same other chord members (B and E) if the harmony it preceded had been a tonic (C-major) triad in second inversion.

            Without knowing where your B-flat comes from and where it is going, it’s tough to say. A-sharp could be accompanied by E-flat and G, but in that case, A-sharp should probably ascend to B(natural). If it doesn’t, I think B-flat is a safe bet.

            I could say with certainty if you provide some harmonic context.


            1. Thanks, MB,

              I immediately realised the inadequacy of my post after I’d posted it; am going to bed now, and will ask you a properly-worded question in about 18 hours’ time, if you don’t mind.


            2. For example, the errant A-flat above would’ve been correctly spelled as A-flat, even with the same other chord members (B and E) if the harmony it preceded had been a tonic (C-major) triad in second inversion.

              And even this is subject to context — if it came between two second-inversion C-major triads in an otherwise C-major context, the A-flat would almost certainly be correct. However, if it were coming from a long passage in A-minor and in the following chord progression:

              … a-minor, E-major6, C-major6-4, C-dominant4-3, F-major …,

              then the G# is totally warranted, and the abrupt transition from the E-major to the C-major triad would just be a “common tone progression” like that famous one in the middle of Mozart’s aria Voi che sapete in Figaro, or many of the ones you find in late Beethoven. In this case the C chord would be a chord used to tonicize F, and the overall progression would be a common-tone progression from a to F, using G#, G, and F as passing tones in the bass.

              So spelling is indeed extremely delicate and subject to context!

              1. Musical Beef,

                Sorry for not getting back to you, and Another Matt, for that matter; family birthday, hence the tardiness.

                OK, still on my difficulty with my Estonian classically-trained keyboardist and my inadequate pop-based empirical understanding of musical notation. Imagine this musical phrase of ours, using these chords:

                C2, D2, C-sharp minor, A-minor, D7, B7. On the B7, I want Eva, the keyboardist, to add a G note; should I call this a sharpened fifth or a flattened sixth (from the B chord); or maybe even a fifth (from the key of C). Secondly, am I right in naming the third chord in the phrase C-sharp minor, rather than D-flat minor? Why am I wrong or right – or neither!

                Or is my misunderstanding so hopeless that I should just tell her that this chord is the chord with an added x, where x stands for whatever note I want her to play? Are we speaking different languages?


              2. Dermot C,

                I’m not always clear in pop progressions whether chords like “D7” or “B7” are the same type of chord, or if they are seventh chords with respect to a key, as they usually are in classical theory. In classical theory, in the key of C, if you said “D7” it would be the pitches D-F-A-C, while “B7” would be B-D-F-A (or possibly B-D-F-Ab). But it could be that you want D-F#-A-C for “D7” and B-D#-F#-A for the “B7”.

                “Added 6th” is in the classical tradition at least since Rameau in the 18th century, so you can probably get away with it. A lot of old classic movie scores actually end on Major triads with added sixth, as does Berg’s violin concerto.

                Anyway, it might be helpful if you post the progression you want with all the pitches in each chord. Bonus if you know what pitch you want in the bass of each one! You can do it this way — for the A minor, for instance, if you wanted the C to appear in the bass, you would write A-C-E/C (the pitches A, C, and E “over C”).

              3. @ Another Matt

                In pop, D7 and B7 are the same type of chord, not sevenths with respect to the key.

                This is my progression with all pitches and the bass note added according to the notation you outlined.

                C2 chord: C-E-G-D/C
                D2 chord: D-F#-A-E/D
                C# minor chord: C#-G#-E/A (Yes, I know, but the bass note works)
                A minor chord: A-C-E/C
                D7 chord: D-F#-A-C/D
                B7 chord: B-D#-F#-A/G (Again the bass note works)

                I’ve worked out your explanation of a classical D7 in the key of C (major surprise to me) that the F is natural, rather than sharpened; and my understanding of the rule was confirmed by your demonstration of the B7. I don’t think that would occur to most pop persons; we just don’t work like that. But thanks, that has clarified a point for me, and confirmed how slow I am at thinking on the hoof, in order to teach our keyboardist what I mean by this chord or that.


              4. OK, let me translate this into something more or less “classical”:

                C2 chord: C-E-G-D/C
                “C major w/ added second”

                D2 chord: D-F#-A-E/D
                “D major w/ added second”

                C# minor chord: C#-G#-E/A (Yes, I know, but the bass note works)
                We would actually call this “A major 7th” or “AMaj7” — see below

                A minor chord: A-C-E/C
                Yep, A-minor in “first inversion”

                D7 chord: D-F#-A-C/D
                “D dominant 7th”

                B7 chord: B-D#-F#-A/G (Again the bass note works)
                This might be “G major 9th sharp 5”

                We have a number of different 7th chords — this might help:

                Dominant 7th chord is a major triad with a minor 7th — your D7 here is an example. Using only the pitches of the C-major scale, there is only one Dominant 7th chord — G-B-D-F

                Major 7th chord is a major triad with a major 7th — what you were calling “C# minor” is an example. Using only the pitches of the C-major scale, there are two Major 7th chords — C-E-G-B and F-A-C-E. Looking at C-E-G-B, the “lower” triad (C-E-G) is a major triad, while the “higher” triad (E-G-B) is a minor triad. So it has qualities of each.

                Minor 7th chord is a minor triad with a minor 7th. Using only the pitches of the C-major scale, there are three — D-F-A-C, E-G-B-D, A-C-E-G. Notice that what we would call an “added 6th chord” (where the 6th is added to a major triad), is an “inversion” of a minor 7th chord. If I put A-C-E-G with C in the bass, it might be heard instead as C-E-G (c major) with an added A. Another way of looking at this A-C-E-G is a minor triad (A-C-E) on “bottom” and a major triad (C-E-G) on “top.”

                Diminished 7th chord is a diminished triad with a diminished 7th. There are none in C major, but there is in C minor — B-D-F-Ab.

                Half-diminished 7th chord is a diminished triad with a minor 7th. In C-major, B-D-F-A is the only one.

                I would keep your spelling exactly as you have it in what you posted, and using that kind of notation might actually be best for a classical pianist anyway.

                I can’t remember whether you said — do you read music?

              5. Another Matt; I’m gonna go away and work out what all the technical language means and therefore “get” the rules. Re: the C sharp minor being A major 7; of course! D’oh, that’s what I used to call it, before I got attracted to the weird exoticism of the ‘C2, D2, C sharp minor’ nomenclature. Thanks for your patient explanations; I’m off to do my homework.

              6. If you read music, and if I haven’t misunderstood, something based on this little outline might work nicely:


                Notice how the top line moves down by half-steps (D-C#-C-B); I don’t know if it’s a thing in pop music, but in classical chord progressions we care a lot about what the individual “voices” do, and I think most of us would try to find some kind of “structural melody” like that to emphasize. But again, a lot depends on what comes next, and what is going on in the rest of the ensemble.

                You might respell the last chord depending on what comes next, for instance. That last could could also just be called “B dominant 7 over G” if you wanted.

              7. Btw,

                Yes I do read music, very slowly, and thanks for the pdf. But the theory’s the thing.

  12. I rather hate our national anthem. The tune is difficult to harmonize (and it’s usually done very poorly), it’s rhythmically clunky, and it has too wide a range for a proper anthem, which is supposed to be easily singable by most people. This is why it’s so overdone — there’s almost no other way to add any kind of interest to this music but embellishment.

    Add to this the glorification of war and the flag rather than the honor and dignity of the land and its people. I would much have preferred “America, the Beautiful.”

    PS – that should be a G-sharp rather than A-flat in the bass of measure 7 of the “normal rendition.”

    PPS – Stravinsky has a decent arrangement, where he approaches these difficulties with some novel harmonies. Then there’s Stockhausen’s incorporation of the tune into his piece Hymnen. (NSFW???)

    1. I have sung your National Anthem as an alto in a choir and it was very difficult to make it sound good. I suggest singing it faster, if all else fails it usually helps and at least it gets the pain over quicker.

    2. I agree, Oh Say Can You See is terrible. Slow and dull. (Lest I be accused of anti-Americanism, I’d also rate the British (God Save The Queen), Australian (Advance Australia Fair) and our New Zealand one (God Defend New Zealand) just as bad, musically. There must be some unwritten rule that national anthems must be crap. The only exception is Deutschland Uber Alles (which was written by Haydn, which might explain it).

      Most countries have an unofficial national song which is far better – America the Beautiful, Land of Hope and Glory, or Waltzing Matilda come to mind. And hearing ‘Jerusalem’ sung by 20,000 drunken British football hooligans can be quite inspiring 😉

      Or, you can jazz it up a bit. A few years back TVNZ commissioned a version of God Defend New Zealand that was almost tolerable – it was sung straight, but with feeling and a bit of rhythm. And sure enough there were the usual Letters to the Editor about how ‘disrespectful’ this was to our national dirge.

  13. Personally, I hate those vocal “runs”. They’re annoying and cheap. They demonstrate very little of the vocalists talent. They seem to have become rather popular, as though it is the standard by which talent is measured.

    Second, I yawned at Beyonce’s version, as she tried the same cheap trick, albeit somewhat less than others.

  14. Hey, who said we missed the point. It was so obvious we didn’t bother with any commentary and wandered off on a tirade against singing the national anthem at sporting events. Really, people, who was it exactly that missed the point? 😐

    1. Yeah, I thought y’all might have been a bit insulted! 😀 But I rather liked having the accurate score posted, anyway. Led to its own interesting discussion. All the polymaths here!

  15. I went to a Red Sox game this year, and the national anthem was sung by a disabled person, I believe a teenager. Don’t remember, and doesn’t matter, his exact age or what the disability was. The rendition was true to the way it should be sung, and he got a rousing ovation afterward. All the overpaid pop and country singers can’t hold a candle to this singer.

    Oh, and James Taylor did a fine job in his own style at one of the post-season games at Fenway. Just him doing his thing, not an ego trip like most celebrities who butcher the anthem.

    I also sent this to all the fellow musicians I know. My only regret is that the clever person who “arranged” this version didn’t carry it through to the end. The sarcastic comments could have just kept going.

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