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An Anthem Switch?
Inside Catholic ^ | July 2, 2009 | George Weigel

Posted on 07/02/2009 10:21:46 AM PDT by NYer

Although I have lived in the Washington, D.C., area since 1984, I am an orthodox Baltimorean by birth, nurture, education, baseball loyalties, and a settled disdain for offering tartar sauce with crab cakes. So I should be the last person to think the unthinkable about my native city’s principal contribution to American public culture (after, of course, the Colts’ sudden-death victory over the New York Giants in the 1958 NFL championship game). Nonetheless, I shall risk the charges of heresy and treason by proposing the following thought experiment: as America celebrates Independence Day, let’s ponder a switch in national anthems, substituting “America the Beautiful” for the poem Francis Scott Key wrote during the British bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore harbor during the War of 1812.

Older readers and Americana buffs will remember that “The Star-Spangled Banner” won the title of national anthem in a close Congressional vote, nipping “God Bless America” at the wire in 1931. Since then, the anthem — which ranges over an octave and a half and is thus unsingable by anyone beside children, virtuoso sopranos, and castrati — has been vocally mangled by patriotic Americans from, er, sea to shining sea. The severe difficulty of singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” properly is the strongest argument in favor of replacing it. (That the tune to which Key’s poem was set, “To Anachreon in Heaven,” was originally a London drinking song is not a disqualification for right-thinking Catholics, although it might vex some of the evangelical brethren…)

Veterans of the Baltimore Catholic schools of the 1950s once knew three stanzas of Key’s lyrics; I venture to guess that less than 1/10 of 1 percent of my fellow-countrymen know anything beyond the first stanza today-if even the full first stanza is widely known. It would be a shame if it weren’t, though. For the “Star-Spangled Banner”’s best claim to canonization is that the stanza we all (try to) sing ends with a question, which is an appropriate way to end the national anthem of a democracy. Why? Because democracy is always something of an experiment. “Oh say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave, o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?” — the question poses itself today, just as it did under the rockets’ red glare in 1814, and just as it will pose itself in every future generation.

“America the Beautiful” would, arguably, be a better national anthem, not because it’s less bellicose — it isn’t, with its paean to “heroes proved in liberating strife, who more than self their country loved and mercy more than life” — but because it’s eminently more singable. Moreover, Katherine Lee Bates’s lyrics acknowledge that the wonder of America is a gift of God’s grace, while reminding us that to be a nation “under God” means being a nation under judgment. Thus the fine second stanza — the one you get to after extolling “purple mountain majesties” (please note: not “purple mountain’s majesty”) — teaches us the always useful lesson that faith, reason, freedom, and the rule of law go together in a national experiment that also has the character of a pilgrimage:

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America, America, God mend thine every flaw;
Confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law!

Bates’s unapologetic linking of the American democratic experiment with divine providence, divine guidance, and divine judgment probably renders “America the Beautiful” unacceptable to today’s secularist thought-police and their allies in the federal courts; one can easily imagine the ACLU contesting “America the Beautiful”-as-national-anthem on the grounds that singing about God shedding his grace on the United States violates the First Amendment (just as one can imagine certain parties deploring the notion that God’s grace is “his” grace).

So swapping Keys for Bates is an idea whose time may not yet have come — and the shades of Baltimoreans past can rest easy. Still, both anthems, with their stress on sacrifice for the common good, give us something to think about, come the Glorious Fourth.


TOPICS: Catholic; General Discusssion; History; Religion & Politics
KEYWORDS: anthem; july4; patriotism
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1 posted on 07/02/2009 10:21:46 AM PDT by NYer
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To: Salvation; narses; SMEDLEYBUTLER; redhead; Notwithstanding; nickcarraway; Romulus; ...
Catholic Ping
Please freepmail me if you want on/off this list


2 posted on 07/02/2009 10:22:12 AM PDT by NYer ("One Who Prays Is Not Afraid; One Who Prays Is Never Alone"- Benedict XVI)
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To: NYer
Oh well, oh well, I feel so good today,
We touched ground on an international runway
Jet propelled back home, from over the seas to the u. s. a.

New york, los angeles, oh, how I yearned for you
Detroit, chicago, chattanooga, baton rouge
Let alone just to be at my home back in ol st. lou.

Did I miss the skyscrapers, did I miss the long freeway?
From the coast of california to the shores of delaware bay
You can bet your life I did, till I got back to the u. s. a.

Looking hard for a drive-in, searching for a corner cafe
Where hamburgers sizzle on an open grill night and day
Yeah, and a juke-box jumping with records like in the u.s.a.

Well, Im so glad Im livin in the u.s.a.
Yes. Im so glad Im livin in the u.s.a.
Anything you want, we got right here in the u.s.a.
3 posted on 07/02/2009 10:25:44 AM PDT by GodBlessRonaldReagan (Refugee from the World of Doomed Olsens)
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To: GodBlessRonaldReagan

No.


4 posted on 07/02/2009 10:26:34 AM PDT by massgopguy (I owe everything to George Bailey)
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To: NYer

I wouldn’t be surprised if the U.S. national anthem is eventually switched to, (music) “I’m coming out, so you better get this party started...”


5 posted on 07/02/2009 10:29:28 AM PDT by johnthebaptistmoore (Conservatives obey the rules. Leftists cheat. Who probably has the political advantage?)
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To: NYer
the stanza we all...sing ends with a question.

The question is answered in the second verse.

6 posted on 07/02/2009 10:30:25 AM PDT by Fiji Hill
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To: NYer

It’s refreshing to hear a “let’s change the anthem” piece from someone other than an ardent leftist.

That said, I agree that “America the Beautiful” is a better choice than the current anthem. Key’s poetry is poor and, even if it were good, is tied to the War of 1812 and martial themes. I’m not averse to some war imagery, but it’d be preferable to talk about America’s other fine aspects, too.

Even more clear, IMHO, is that the current anthem is nearly unsingable. “America the Beautiful” is easier on the vocal cords and, in my opinion, the ears too.

Still, I don’t lose any sleep over the current anthem being what it is. When folks get all angry about it, for or against, I think they need to have a lemonade and come watch a ball game with me. Whatever we sing before the game, America is still the same great nation.


7 posted on 07/02/2009 10:31:33 AM PDT by pogo101
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To: NYer

I always did like America the Beautiful.
Though the current is good as well, I doubt that changing the anthem would do anything to “improve patriotism” because, lets face it, chances are getting slimmer and slimmer that the country CAN be turned around w/o bloodshed.


8 posted on 07/02/2009 10:33:37 AM PDT by OneWingedShark (Q: Why am I here? A: To do Justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with my God.)
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To: NYer

This again. Comes up every year about this time. Without going into specifics, try to imagine how fast the ACLU would challenge any song that mentioned God, even one as traditional as that. They don’t even want it on coins. If they ever read the last verse of the Star Spangled Banner their heads would explode.


9 posted on 07/02/2009 10:34:59 AM PDT by Billthedrill
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To: NYer
Interesting article. Of course ending with a question seems quite appropriate to me, for the maintenance of liberty is an ongoing task and the duty of each generation. A task we seem to be failing at for the moment. It's the question that's wrong - not does the flag still fly, but is the country over which it flies still the land of the free? Thus, the real oddity to me is that the song is not essentially about the country, but the country's flag, and furthermore that it commemorates a battle in a war that is frankly hard to chalk up to anything but a loss. I have always loved America the Beautiful, and yes, it would make a good anthem. It is a bit slow, a bit melancholy in its sound - not unlike God Save the King/Queen, but it's a good song and more fitting. God Bless America was perhaps the best choice - a robust, positive tune with a great message about divine guidance...of course such open religiosity is impossible these days. I would prefer either to the Star-spangled Banner. In the end though, how fitting for modern America to have an anthem devoid of references to God... written by a lawyer.
10 posted on 07/02/2009 10:35:40 AM PDT by americanophile (Sarcasm: satirical wit depending for its effect on bitter, caustic, and often ironic language.)
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To: NYer
Take a careful look at this. It's the second verse of "The Star Spangled Banner."

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand

Between their loved homes 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, for our cause it is just,

And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."

And the star-spangled banner forever shall wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

I bet the references to "heav'n-rescued," "Praise the Power" and "God" contained therein would get a condemnation from our current Supreme Court and render it unconstitutional.

Therefore, I propose that this verse be sung at all baseball, football games and all public events.

11 posted on 07/02/2009 10:37:21 AM PDT by eCSMaster
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To: GodBlessRonaldReagan
Looking hard for a drive-in, searching for a corner cafe
Where hamburgers sizzle on an open grill night and day
Yeah, and a juke-box jumping with records like in the U.S.A.

This verse certainly expressed my sentiment when I was living in Germany in the 1960's and 1970's. I especially developed a craving for tacos, burritos, fired chicken, and steak.

12 posted on 07/02/2009 10:38:23 AM PDT by Fiji Hill
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To: NYer

Albert Brooks covered this topic very well years ago. You can find his take on YouTube is you search for Albert Brooks Rewriting the National Anthem.


13 posted on 07/02/2009 10:43:28 AM PDT by trad_anglican
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To: pogo101
Key’s poetry is poor

At least Key didn't refer to "alabaster cities."

14 posted on 07/02/2009 10:46:41 AM PDT by Fiji Hill
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To: NYer

THE DEFENSE OF FORT MCHENRY

O say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro’ the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watch’d, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thro’ the night that our flag was still there.
O 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 thro’ 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 on the stream:
‘Tis the star-spangled banner: O, 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 wash’d 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.

O thus be it ever when free-men shall stand
Between their lov’d home and the war’s desolation;
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the heav’n-rescued land
Praise the Pow’r that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!
Then conquer we must, for 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

—Francis Scott Key, 1814


15 posted on 07/02/2009 10:49:32 AM PDT by Fiji Hill
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To: Fiji Hill

There are many ways in which poetry can be poor, most of which are up to subjective judgment anyway. Key’s is poor largely because his sentence structure seems a mix of Hegel and Yoda.


16 posted on 07/02/2009 10:49:53 AM PDT by pogo101
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To: NYer
Who cares what is sung at sporting events we will all no longer be able to afford to attend, after goberment destroys the economy even further; and turns this into a country we no longer recognize or will want to sing about.
17 posted on 07/02/2009 10:57:15 AM PDT by skully (Our hottest chick is Sarah; theirs is Barney Frank)
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To: Billthedrill

The line, “no refuge could save the hireling and slave” in the third verse seems to have been inspired by Job 7:2—”As a slave earnestly desires the shadow, and as an hireling looks for the reward of his work...”


18 posted on 07/02/2009 11:02:06 AM PDT by Fiji Hill
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To: NYer

Any change during the Obama administration would be to the Internationale.


19 posted on 07/02/2009 11:02:29 AM PDT by monocle
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To: pogo101

I think a lot of poetry is silly if we’re honest. Most of the time no one knows what the hell it means - it’s inherently subjective and ambiguous and usually only the author knows. People quote poets to make themselves sound more intelligent - to demonstrate their superior understanding of the philospohical and existential. I find the poetry that is meaningful to be the poetry that’s meaning is clear, and thus probably ‘poorly written,’ to the poetry crowd - no doubt kin to the same people who stand in modern art galleries marveling at a blank canvas or a colored geometric shape. That’s just me however.


20 posted on 07/02/2009 11:02:44 AM PDT by americanophile (Sarcasm: satirical wit depending for its effect on bitter, caustic, and often ironic language.)
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To: americanophile

Absolutely true. Much of poetry is risking “high falutin’” language. If it “works” with a given reader, it’s poetry. If it falls flat, it’s just laughable.


21 posted on 07/02/2009 11:05:38 AM PDT by pogo101
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To: NYer
Nope.

1. Just because this guy thinks nobody knows all 4 verses but Commies and Birchers (I'm neither and I know them all) doesn't make it true. Moreover, it doesn't make it grounds for changing it (who knows all the verses to "God Save the Queen"? I do, including the one they dropped which prayed God to "arise/Scatter thine enemies/and make them fall./Confound their politics;/Frustrate their knavish tricks/ On Thee our hopes we fix / God save us all!")

2. It's NOT an octave and a half, it's an octave and four, and all except a couple of notes is within the octave.

This guy must be parroting an article that came out a couple weeks ago agitating to change the anthem, because that writer made the same obvious error. This looks like a concerted campaign rather than a groundswell.

3. It's not hard to sing, but there's a trick to it. The third note, not the first note, is the lowest note in the whole tune. If you start in the middle of your range, you'll wind up topping out early (naturally). Just start low.

I wonder who's behind this campaign, and why?

22 posted on 07/02/2009 11:07:21 AM PDT by AnAmericanMother (Ministrix of ye Chasse, TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary (recess appointment))
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To: Fiji Hill

Good catch. I’d missed that entirely.


23 posted on 07/02/2009 11:12:10 AM PDT by Billthedrill
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To: NYer

I’ve read and heard these arguments for changing the anthem many times.

Here are my reasons why it should stay.

1. Go to Fort McHenry and hear the NPS guides tell the story. It’s about a free people defending their home.

2. If you are at a ceremony where several anthems are played, you will realize how majestic ours is.

3. Those words are a challenge to us from all who created, built, and defended the country. Does it still wave?

4. Have you ever heard of Capt. Humbert Roque “Rocky” Versace, 5th SFGA? He was awarded the MOH on 12/21/01.
He was executed by the Viet Cong in 1965. He sang the Anthem when ever he could, even when they beat him into the ground.

Our Anthem is special!


24 posted on 07/02/2009 11:17:40 AM PDT by SOLTC
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To: johnthebaptistmoore

Or 0bambi’s favorite:
Born in the USA,
(How I wish) I were born in the USA


25 posted on 07/02/2009 11:21:06 AM PDT by NTHockey (Rules of engagement #1: Take no prisoners.)
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To: Fiji Hill
Thanks.

I thought it "sounded Biblical" but had never run down the quotation. Neat.

Also John 10:12-13 indicates that hirelings were not well thought of.

Holman Hunt, "The Hireling Shepherd". Packed with symbolism as only Hunt could pack it in . . . .

26 posted on 07/02/2009 11:22:21 AM PDT by AnAmericanMother (Ministrix of ye Chasse, TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary (recess appointment))
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To: NYer
It has always puzzled me why countries choose national anthems that are difficult for average folks to sing.

As well as The Star Spangled Banner, The Marseillaise; O Canada and God Save The Queen can put quite a strain on the vocal chords.

27 posted on 07/02/2009 11:26:51 AM PDT by Churchillspirit
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To: massgopguy

I agree: no. Sometimes conservatives need to say, “No” to change simply because change begets and justifies change. If we can change the National Anthem in 2009, we lose the “we can’t change the anthem ever” argument is people want to change it again in ten or twenty years...and God only knows if the song proposed a decade from now would even be in English.


28 posted on 07/02/2009 11:28:42 AM PDT by utahagen
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To: NYer

I think, today, with President Obama at the national helm, more than ever it is fully appropriate to sing the Anthem off key and end it with a question.


29 posted on 07/02/2009 11:43:32 AM PDT by annalex (http://www.catecheticsonline.com/CatenaAurea.php)
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To: NYer

With this administration in place we’ll be lucky if we don’t get stuck with the Internationale!


30 posted on 07/02/2009 12:28:16 PM PDT by ConorMacNessa (HM/2 USN, 3/5 Marines, RVN 1969. St. Michael the Archangel defend us in battle!)
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To: Churchillspirit
It has always puzzled me why countries choose national anthems that are difficult for average folks to sing.

As well as The Star Spangled Banner, The Marseillaise; O Canada and God Save The Queen can put quite a strain on the vocal chords.


I suspect it was because before Edison's invention of the phonograph cylinder if you wanted music you either produced it yourself or (a lot less often) paid someone to do it. I believe the average person had a lot more experience singing, and the didn't find these songs difficult, unlike people today, who just turn on a radio, cd/mp3 player, or whatever, and rarely ever sing themselves. Once upon a time it was one of the marks of a well-brought-up woman to be able to sing and play the piano.

Yeah, I'm sure some of you ladies out there in FReeperland can still do both. My point is how few of you there are.

31 posted on 07/02/2009 12:39:10 PM PDT by Cheburashka (There is an unlimited supply of stupid, although a lot of people are trying to use it all up.)
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To: NYer

I can sing the “Star Spangled Banner”, but it is a tricky tune. Yet, that’s the point. It should be difficult to sing.


32 posted on 07/02/2009 12:53:42 PM PDT by onedoug
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To: pogo101; Slings and Arrows
I suggest either Guile's theme or Ken's theme.

*has to admit that Capcom made rockin' tunes for the two American characters in SFII*

In all seriousness, what's wrong with the current one?

33 posted on 07/02/2009 1:11:57 PM PDT by Ultra Sonic 007 (To view the FR@Alabama ping list, click on my profile!)
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To: NYer

I think it should stay because of its history ... and because of the fact that liberals have always hated it and felt it too “militant.”

It’s not very singable, but everybody knows the tune, and you just drop out on the high notes. Or the low notes, depending on your voice.


34 posted on 07/02/2009 1:23:28 PM PDT by livius
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To: Ultra Sonic 007

I already answered that (”what’s wrong”) and also pointed out that I don’t lose any sleep over keeping the current one. It just wouldn’t be what I’d pick if I were starting from scratch, for the reasons noted.


35 posted on 07/02/2009 1:28:16 PM PDT by pogo101
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To: eCSMaster
Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation!
"War's desolation" can be awfully damned desolate ... I agree ... this is the verse that everybody should know.
36 posted on 07/02/2009 1:31:00 PM PDT by ArrogantBustard (Western Civilization is Aborting, Buggering, and Contracepting itself out of existence.)
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To: Ultra Sonic 007
If there is an anthem change under Zer0, I know exactly what the new one will be.
37 posted on 07/02/2009 1:31:15 PM PDT by Slings and Arrows (Crazy is the new sane.)
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To: AnAmericanMother
3. It's not hard to sing,

It's a bloody drinking song, for pity's sake! OF COURSE it's not hard to sing.

38 posted on 07/02/2009 1:33:40 PM PDT by ArrogantBustard (Western Civilization is Aborting, Buggering, and Contracepting itself out of existence.)
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To: ArrogantBustard

If you don’t think TSSB is hard to sing (in the sense of “for a typical Joe at a ballgame”), what DO you consider “hard”?


39 posted on 07/02/2009 1:40:37 PM PDT by pogo101
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To: pogo101; AnAmericanMother
That's a good question ... I can't say that I've ever found any of the traditional "Patriotic Songs" hard ... nor very many traditional hymns. And unlike AAM, I'm not a trained singer.

I did grow up in a "singing family", which may have helped

40 posted on 07/02/2009 1:51:19 PM PDT by ArrogantBustard (Western Civilization is Aborting, Buggering, and Contracepting itself out of existence.)
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To: ArrogantBustard

And if you’re drunk, you don’t CARE!


41 posted on 07/02/2009 2:33:53 PM PDT by AnAmericanMother (Ministrix of ye Chasse, TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary (recess appointment))
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To: ArrogantBustard; pogo101
Well, I'm not really a trained singer - just have sung in church choirs for a long, long time. This one gave me fits in rehearsal:

Allon Gay Bergeres "Come, happy shepherdesses", Guillaume Costeley (1530-1606).

It's a beautiful little Christmas carol -- but it's tough because it does things that modern music doesn't do, and it goes FAST. If you so much as pause to say to yourself, "Oh, (*&^*^%*^~!" you are instantly 2 measures behind and will NEVER catch up.

Not to mention that it's sung in archaic French . . . and I don't even speak modern French.

If people sang more, easy stuff like the NA wouldn't seem so hard to them. For heaven's sake, just sing along with the RADIO!

42 posted on 07/02/2009 2:48:45 PM PDT by AnAmericanMother (Ministrix of ye Chasse, TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary (recess appointment))
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To: SOLTC

Those are the best darned reasons I’ve heard yet.


43 posted on 07/02/2009 2:53:03 PM PDT by AnAmericanMother (Ministrix of ye Chasse, TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary (recess appointment))
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To: americanophile
It isn't devoid of references to God.

And it was actually adopted in 1916.

As for lawyers, SOMEBODY had to defend Sam Houston!

44 posted on 07/02/2009 2:58:42 PM PDT by AnAmericanMother (Ministrix of ye Chasse, TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary (recess appointment))
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To: AnAmericanMother
I love Karaoke ... it gets people singing.

Often drunkenly and badly, but that's infinitely better than not at all. And the "Anacreontic Hymn" was probably mostly sung by drunks.

45 posted on 07/02/2009 3:02:58 PM PDT by ArrogantBustard (Western Civilization is Aborting, Buggering, and Contracepting itself out of existence.)
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To: ArrogantBustard
Well-educated drunks. The sort who have formal drinking societies, and obscure Greek mottos, and so forth.

The rest of 'em were singing "The Ball of Kirriemuir" or "The Sea Crab" or equivalents. "The Bastard King of England" is of relatively recent vintage.

I had a standing invitation to dinners with the local Rugby Club because I knew all those songs, words and music, including of course "The Rugby Song".

This was in my life B.C. . . . Before Children. My kids have no idea I know all these things.

46 posted on 07/02/2009 3:11:59 PM PDT by AnAmericanMother (Ministrix of ye Chasse, TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary (recess appointment))
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To: Cheburashka

Interesting point of view. Thank you.


47 posted on 07/02/2009 3:49:59 PM PDT by Churchillspirit
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To: eCSMaster
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."

Thanks for posting this second verse. I have to admit, I have never heard it before. Perhaps the above phrase is the reason why ;-)

48 posted on 07/02/2009 4:10:11 PM PDT by NYer ("One Who Prays Is Not Afraid; One Who Prays Is Never Alone"- Benedict XVI)
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To: skully
Who cares what is sung at sporting events

I take it you're not a hockey fan. The Philadelphia Flyers were extremely superstitious. When they found themselves pinned against the wall, they would play a recording of Kate Smith singing "God Bless America". I will never forget watching the 7th game in the semi-final round against the NY Islanders. The Flyers flew Kate Smith in from Connecticut, rolled out the red carpet on the ice and sent her out to sing the song LIVE. They won!

49 posted on 07/02/2009 4:19:49 PM PDT by NYer ("One Who Prays Is Not Afraid; One Who Prays Is Never Alone"- Benedict XVI)
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To: NYer
Bates was what we would call a "lesbian" nowadays. In her day things weren't so clear-cut, and two women could live together for decades as Katherine Lee Bates and Katharine Coman did without people drawing any conclusions.

Bates and Coman were "activists" and "reformers" in their day. Whether they were socialists (like Francis Bellamy who wrote the Pledge of Allegiance) or not would also be hard to say.

Back when you had child labor and 12 hour working days a lot of people were socialists. People who were around earlier (like Key) or later (like us) were less likely to be. But changing the national anthem now would certainly be sending a signal to today's leftists.

50 posted on 07/02/2009 4:33:45 PM PDT by x
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