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The “Star-Spangled Banner” Turns 200

The National Anthem of the United States, The Star-Spangled Banner, turns 200 this year, in fact the anniversary is just days away.  In commemoration of the auspicious national anniversary, the American Choral Directors Association, in partnership with the Star Spangled Music Foundation, is planning a nation-wide celebration of our national anthem on Friday, September 12, 2014.
 
On that day, singers throughout the U.S. will be asked to sing the National Anthem and discuss both its history and the work’s significance to our country.  A variety of commentaries and instructional materials are being prepared to elevate the discussion.  Numerous other special events are planned and ACDA is also planning to feature the Star Spangled Banner during the various divisional conferences scheduled for 2014.
 
(The accompanying photograph depicts the original Star-Spangled Banner, the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the song that would become our national anthem.  The flag is among the most treasured artifacts in the collections of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.)
on January 9, 2014 2:21pm
I'm sure I will not be alone, but this inspires me to renovate/resurrect my own arrangement of the anthem, done for the Alabama Sports Festival ceremonies way back c. 1980's ... for soloist, SATB div & orchestra (and later a band version). --- It will include no scat singing or other melismatic wildness (therefore probably won't be featured at the SuperBowl or certain other sporting events, ironically!) ... just some neat chord twists, including the seldom-performed verse ("O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand...") for unaccompanied voices, and a flashy ending with the whole entourage!  WooHoo!!
Applauded by an audience of 1
on January 15, 2014 6:08pm
For all ages, I recommend the artist Peter Spier's wonderful picture book The Star Spangled Banner, originally published in 1973 by Random House.  It has beautiful, large pictures, one to a page, each illustrating the action described in successive phrases of the song; a photo of Key's original cursive writing and another of the receipt to Mary Pickersgill for the sewing of the flag (30 x 42', $405.90); a piano and voice setting by J. Stafford Smith (1750-1836) in Bb; a four page spread of paintings of 100 historic flags; a map and three pages of adult level historical text.  Also, National Geographic has on their website information and photos of the conservation of the flag at the Smithsonian, and published an article in the magazine in the early 2000s.
Applauded by an audience of 2
on August 30, 2014 4:58am
I hope, probably in most cases beyond all hope, that whenever the National Anthem is performed, especially at this time, that ALL the verses are performed.  It's not unlike a hymn at church, really (unless it has 14 verses):  it's a story.  Stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end.  Without all the parts, it's no longer a story.  Mr. Key was responding, in his poem, to a complete event.  At least in this instance, it should be sung completely - beginning, middle, and ending.  We're all in such a d*****d hurry to get about the next thing, that we lose sight of what should be happening when we stand up to sing this piece of music - or when it is sung.  Yes, by golly, it might mean we have to stand there for four or five minutes - but would that really kill us?
 
Ron
 
P. S.  And congrats to Tim Banks for being ready to do the whole thing!
on August 31, 2014 7:15pm
Hi Ron,
 
We're singing three verses.  One of the muncipal  workers I made arrangements with for our *tour* asked me how long we would be singing.  I said I thought about five minutes.  He kinda frowned and said he thought it would be a lot of work  (he's insisting we need a sound system) for a little time.  So, I added Chester and the three verses of the SSB.....and then told him I thought about 10 minutes. He was satisfied and my singers LOVE Chester anyway. We're passing out word sheets to the police and firefighters at one of the stops to they can sing along!  We stumble over verses 2 and 3 right now but it does tell as story and we are enjoying singing those words.
 
And Scott, a lot more people will be  in public for our sings on a Friday....we are timing it (we hope!) so people getting off their commuter trains will hear us and to JOIN IN which is the point.
 
on August 30, 2014 8:32am
This is a great idea but I wonder why the Star Spangled Music Foundation would choose September 12. The bombardment of Fort McHenry was September 13 & 14, 1814. The "dawn's early light" by which Francis Scott Key saw the flag was the morning of September 14 and the day he began writing the poem, The Star Spangled Banner, the first verse of which became our National Anthem, was September 14. Mobile Opera has asked the citizens of Mobile, Alabama to sing the National Anthem together at 2:00pm on Sunday, September 14, 2014.  I would like to invite Americans everywhere to join us. September 14, being the actual anniversary, seems a more appropriate date than Friday, September 12.  
on September 1, 2014 2:27pm
Hello Scott,,,,I feel sure it's because of schools being in session on weekdays, and not weekends.  So therefore, either the Friday before the actual day, or the Monday immediately following it, would be the day it is recognized.  I'm not sure why they picked Friday instead of Monday, but I'm just glad they picked SOMEthing.  It is a great subject for the education of kids.  
on August 30, 2014 8:54am
My community chamber choir is taking a "Star Spangled Tour," singing in four different communities on September 12.  We're also singing "Chester" then The SSB  and have invited members of the communities to join us to sing at the time and place best for them.  We thought a "community sing" would be fun and singing "Chester" (Let Tyrants shake their iron rods etc.) for all before would get the discussions rolling.  We are looking forward to this...and we're singing an old service arrangement because it's great unaccompanied and we'll be singing at several commuter train stations with little space.
on September 2, 2014 7:36am
Hi Scott,
Is there a 4 part arrangement availbale for use?  Thanks
on September 2, 2014 7:36am
ECS Publishing has the following versions in our catalog.
 
Catalog No. 4613 Star Spangled Banner,  SMITH, John S.,  (TTBB)
 
Catalog No. 6560 Star-Spangled Banner, The,  SUSA, Conrad, arr./ed.,  (SATB & opt. Brass)
Catalog No. 6579 Star-Spangled Banner, The (Brass parts for #6560),  SUSA, Conrad, arr./ed.,  (SATB & opt. Brass [3 Tpt & 1 Tbn)]
Catalog No. 6559 Star-Spangled Banner, The,  SUSA, Conrad, arr./ed.,  (SSAB & opt. Brass)
Catalog No. 6578 Star-Spangled Banner, The (Brass parts for #6559),  SUSA, Conrad, arr./ed.,  (SSAB & opt. Brass [3 Tpt & 1 Tbn])
 
Cheers,
 
Stanley M. Hoffman, Ph.D.
Chief Editor
ECS PUBLISHING CORPORATION
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e-mail: smhoffman(a)ecspub.com
 
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on September 9, 2014 1:45pm
I don't mean to come off as a stickler, but Francis Scott Key wrote the poem "Defence of Fort M'Henry" or "The Star Spangled Banner." He did not write the song. The song, as many know, was originally a British drinking song written by John Stafford Smith, entitled, "To Anacreon in Heaven." By all means, celebrate the Anthem, but give credit for the stirring words to Key...and blame for the hard-to-sing melody to Smith. :-)