I suppose that I may have been told this before, but wasn’t paying attention at the time. Everyone knows the story of course of how Francis Scott Key came to write the lyrics to the “Star Spangled Banner”, although the poem was orginally called, “The Defence of Fort McHenry” . Most people also know that with a range of an octave and a half, it is a difficult song to sing and when people at events first started singing it acapella, I thought that was a bit risky. Then I realized that in actuality it probably is easier because of not having to match the pitch of whatever instrument or instruments are used.
The part that I either didn’t know, or hadn’t paid attention to, was that when the lyrics were set to music by Key’s brother-in-law,Judge Joseph H. Nicholson, he chose, “The Anacreontic Song,”a song that was already popular in this country, but was in fact British. Setting aside that ironic tidbit for a moment, the greater point is that the Anacreontic Society was a social club and the song was often sung in pubs. Aha – pubs, beer, drunk guys singing. Who cares or notices how difficult a song is to sing after you’ve hoisted a number of pints? Now, I mean no disrespect to our National Anthem, but I couldn’t help but wonder if there wasn’t at least some grain of truth in my thought. By the way, I genuinely admire those people who can sing, “The Star Spangled Banner”, and I always sympathize when someone struggles with it. And yes, I absolutely do get choked up and weepy when it is played.