The Star-Spangled Banner

The Star-Spangled Banner

ChoralSong opened their recent concert, “Northern Lights and Summer Nights,” with the world premiere of a new concert-arrangement of “The Star-Spangled Banner”.  The first part of the program contained music inspired in some fashion by the heavens.  In this case, the stars in the night sky are being used as a metaphor for the nobility we strive for as a nation.

“The Star-Spangled Banner” has a fascinating history.  In 1814, Francis Scott Key published his four-verse poem “The Defence of Fort M’Henry” two years after the Battle of Baltimore.  The poem’s fame grew rapidly when later that year it was combined with the melody of a popular British song “To Anacreon in Heaven” and renamed “The Star-Spangled Banner”.  As a result of the song’s nationwide popularity, the United States Navy authorized it for official use in 1889 and the United States Congress adopted it as our official national anthem in 1931.

When writing his poem, Key was inspired by the epic nature of the Battle of Baltimore, not only as a turning point in the Battle of 1812, but as a representation of our national struggle for freedom.  The poem relates how the battle raged through the night with rockets glaring red andbombs bursting mid-air.  At dawn the next morning, though, there was a degree of uncertainty as to who had won.  The poem’s first verse ends with observers trying to see whose flag was flying over the fort. The following 3 verses go on to provide the answer to that question in a rather dramatic fashion.

While all four verses of “The Star-Spangled Banner” are rich in symbolism and meaning, today singers usually just perform the first verse—the verse that ends with a question mark.  So, in reality, whenever we hear the anthem sung today, we are left with a perpetually unanswered question:  “Does the star-spangled banner still wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”

While some might be concerned by a perpetually asked, but unanswered question, others might suggest that leaving it unanswered might actually be helpful.  Unanswered questions can provoke good thought.  Is our flag still flying?  Are all the things our flag symbolizes still true?  Are we still striving to make this “the land of the free and the home of the brave?”  These are questions worth contemplating.

For your thoughtful enjoyment, we proudly present ChoralSong’s live performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” as arranged by their Artistic Director, Daniel Price.

Daniel Price