Wednesday, March 3, 2010

“…And the Home of the Brave” – The Star-Spangled Banner Becomes the National Anthem

Today in 1931, Congress officially designated “The Star-Spangled Banner” as the national anthem. Prior to the congressional designation in 1931,the Army and Navy already designated the song as the American national anthem. Francis Scott Key composed the lyric during the War of 1812, as he was held overnight in a British ship in Chesapeake Bay. From where he was held, he could watch the British bombard Fort McHenry. The next morning, he could still see the American flag raised above the fort, which gave him hope that the American cause was not lost. Only the first verse of Francis Scott Key’s poem is sung in the national anthem, but for those who are curious, here is the original poem in its entirety:

Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Now most of us have been to ballgames, events or ceremonies where the national anthem is played and/or sung. We’ve all probably heard some disastrous versions (maybe we’ve been the ones singing) and some great versions. It’s a very challenging song to sing, which makes it all the more gratifying when someone/a group does the song proud.

Here are the combined military academy choirs (Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard) singing the national anthem before the 2005 Super Bowl. (Look for Bill Clinton hanging around in the background)

[Image via the pilver]

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