History
4:59 am
Fri July 4, 2014

Celebrating A Star-Spangled Anthem ... That's Really Hard To Sing

Originally published on Sun July 6, 2014 4:27 pm

It's been nearly 200 years since Francis Scott Key wrote the words of "The Star-Spangled Banner" as he watched America's flag fly over Fort McHenry during the war of 1812. Set to the melody of a popular English tune, it officially became the national anthem in 1931.

But spanning one and a half octaves, America's national song is awfully hard for the average citizen to sing. So NPR went down to the National Mall on Flag Day and asked folks to give it their best shot (without looking up the lyrics, mind you!)

Plenty of people declined, but a few brave souls stepped up to the challenge. Click the play button above to hear from: Elizabeth Peppercorn, Sue Krantz, Lorraine Rogina, Elaine and Griffin Ferrara, Rebecca and Richard McAlpin, Ryan and Jordan Hurt, Natalie Beckford, Rian Gaskins, Kevin Amon, Georgie Bauer, Suzanne Kalfus, Allie Cohen, Rome Haskett, Adrian Matthews, Paul Young, Rashaha Jones and Sean Peacock.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

This year marks the bicentennial of "The Star-Spangled Banner." Set to the melody of a popular English tune, it officially became the national anthem in 1931. But spanning one and a half octaves, it is not easy to sing. And even though it's been around for a while, every so often some words not written by Francis Scott Key are included. Boy, can it get mangled. NPR producer, Beth Novey, recently went to the National Mall and asked visitors to perform the anthem. And they gave it their best shot.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER 1: (Singing) Oh, say, can you see...

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS 1: (Singing) By the dawn's early light?

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS 2: (Singing) What so proudly we hailed...

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS 3: (Singing) At the twilight's last gleaming.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER 2: (Singing) Whose broad stripes and bright stars...

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER 3: (Singing) Through the perilous fight.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS 4: (Singing) All the ramparts we watched...

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS 5: (Singing) Were so gallantly streaming.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER 4: (Singing) And the rocket's red blare...

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS 6: (Singing) The bombs bursting in air...

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS 7: (Singing) Gave truth to the night...

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS 8: (Singing) That our flag was still there.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER 5: (Singing) Something else (unintelligible) star-spangled...

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS 9: Banner yet wave...

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS 10: O'er the land of the free.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS 11: And the home of the brave.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: And then I remember my music teacher in elementary school saying, (Singing) sit down.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Really?

WOMAN: Yes.

SIEGEL: Visitors to the National Mall in Washington D.C., singing our national anthem as best they could. We heard from Suzanne Kalfus (PH) and Allie Cohen, Rebecca and Richard McAlpin also chimed in - as did Sue Krantz, Lorraine Rogina (PH) and Elaine and Griffin Ferrara, also Sean Peacock, Rome Haskett, Adrian Matthews, Paul Young, Rashaha Jones (PH) and Kevin Amon (PH). Rounding out our impromptu choir were Georgie Bauer, Natalie Beckford, Rian Gaskins, Ryan and Jordan Hurt and Elizabeth Peppercorn. This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.