Monday, February 7, 2011

A New Day, A New Look

Obviously, I've changed the look of the blog. We'll see how long it lasts.

In an effort of full disclosure, you should know that my original thoughts to write down today were not about changes. But as soon as I opened the page, I thought "eh, what the heck".

Changes. They happen. Often. Daily, in fact. Like writing in free verse as opposed to my usual pedantic self who prefers well thought full sentences. Some changes don't last long.

But here's one I'd like to see -- real singers singing the national anthem at sporting events. My tirade does not begin with Christina's massacre of yesterday -- she is just the most recent catalyst. And I will give her that singing on such a large stage can be intimidating and you can get lost if you aren't thinking. But I cannot excuse her inadvertent changing of keys or bending every vowel into a multi syllable phrase or screaming the words in such a harsh manner that dogs began to howl. I have had it with "celebrities" turning the national anthem into a show-off piece. I am tired of hearing it mangled by amateurs and professionals alike. I plead for people to respect the piece.

And when I say "respect the piece" I'm not questioning the performer's loyalty to the country, but their sanity, for they must, like too many others, have been thinking, "sure, anyone can sing the Star Spangled Banner -- it's easy -- I've been singing it my whole life." Here's a news flash -- the national anthem of the United States of America is a difficult piece of music for anyone to sing, let alone sing well. The range is wide, the words are a bit clumsy in our uneducated mouths, and, since it is sung by everyone at the ballpark and the arena, we think we know it when we don't.

If you are asked to sing at an event, you must practice. If you were asked to sing a Verdi aria or a Sondheim showstopper at a ballpark, you'd probably spend a great deal of time practicing and perfecting your performance. But the national anthem seems to get shorted.

Please do not take offense. I have heard many performances that were well rehearsed and well performed. During the 2010 baseball post-season at AT&T Park, Huey Lewis and The News performed and were absolutely wonderful (in four part harmony, no less). So were the surviving members of The Grateful Dead, Tony Bennett and a twelve-year-old trumpet player (sorry, I don't have his name, but he was great -- he performed at one of the games not at AT&T, either Philadelphia or Texas).

But too often, and for me, once is too often, the national anthem is strangled by vocal soloists, choirs, bands and instrumentalists. This past year, I heard a guy on a synthesizer play something that nearly sounded like the anthem.

If the point is to honor America, as the stadium announcer would have us believe, then sing the anthem honorably. It is good enough as written to be a show piece. If performed well, it will display your abilities and talents. You don't have to sound as good as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, but sing it well, as written. There are no recording executives in the audience, so stop singing like you are trying to impress one.

And for pity's sake, if you are in charge of finding the talent to sing at the biggest sporting event in America, GET A REALLY GOOD SINGER! I am told that Christina has a good voice and can sing well -- I've never heard her do so. I've seen her on late-night talk shows and the like, and each time she has some excuse about not being in the best voice or whatever. I will admit that I have not listened to her records, so my judgement may not be fair, but I don't care for what I have heard over the years.

With all the pomp and bravado of the Super Bowl, why is low point the singing of the national anthem? The performance of "God Bless America" just beforehand was great. Maybe that singer and choir could have done the anthem, too? But, no, they had to have some huge celebrity do it.

Second news flash -- Celebrity does not equal Quality.

But enough ragging on Christina. She feels pretty lousy about flubbing the words. And, unfortunately, her performance will probably not further her career.

So here's the lesson -- if you are not 110% sure that you can perform the national anthem well, graciously decline the invitation. Karma will reward you. Otherwise, Karma will give you your just rewards.