February 17, 2011

What’s in a lyric?

Posted in Between Us column, Entertainment at 1:16 am by dinaheng

Being a music lover, my fondest memories of junior high school were singing in the choir under the direction of Marilyn Miller, a teacher whose personality sparkled like fireworks on the Fourth of July.

Of all the songs we used to sing, performing “The Star-Spangled Banner” was the hardest. It isn’t easy to sing a song with a range of one and a half octaves, or enunciate the lyrics, which come from “Defence of Fort McHenry,” a poem penned by Francis Scott Key in 1814.

Miss Miller used to say, “Stand tall, and when you sing ‘banner yet wave,’ there’s no breath between ban and ner. It’s one word, so don’t breathe in the middle of it!”

Christina Aguilera is no doubt mortified that her performance of the national anthem at Super Bowl XLV will be remembered more for her botching the lyrics than her breathy interpretation. I just wish those who sang the anthem at such events would sing in ways that honor the song and what it stands for, rather than try to perform renditions to call attention to their wind pipes.

I have no problem with giving the notes a pop, soul, or country twist now and then, but concentrating on style over substance had to have contributed to Aguilera forgetting the words, “O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming,” and substituting “what so proudly we watched at the twilight’s last (unintelligible words)” instead.

While the first stanza of the anthem is usually the only one sung, the fourth stanza is actually my favorite. The words speak about the true hope of democracy, and the challenges that face every generation in this country.

“Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand

Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!”

We may hold differing opinions on every issue that exists, but we are free to speak our minds. Today, uncertain economic conditions reveal a growing divide between the rich and the poor, with a middle class that no longer feels secure. Racial prejudice seems to be on the rise, along with disrespect for spiritual beliefs that are not our own.

These words are a reminder that war is not just waged between countries over differences. The greatest battle we will ever fight is against the fear in our hearts. If home is truly where the heart is, we need to be at peace within ourselves before we can find common ground with others.

“Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land

Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.”

We can’t know what our Founding Fathers truly went through to leave us this legacy of a democratic republic, but we are charged with preserving those freedoms and a nation that is united for future generations. We must look at our actions, and be honest about whether our decisions benefit the many, or a select few.

“Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,

And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”

Everyone always thinks that their cause is the most just, and that their opinions and values are best. These words are a reminder to stand up for what we believe in, but to remember that human judgment pales besides God’s wisdom. The first question we should always ask ourselves is, “Am I acting out of love, or out of fear?”

For it’s only when we act out of love, that…

“…the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!”

 

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