The “Star-Spangled Banner,” we’re instructed, is compromised by racism. Its creator, Francis Scott Key, owned slaves, and the poem’s third stanza contains the cryptic couplet “No refuge may save the hireling and slave / From the fear of flight, or the gloom of the grave.” I think Key was making use of the phrase “hireling and slave” to a single entity, the British mercenary soldier, however the professionally outraged aren’t keen on a dialogue of poetic that means.
Let me state for the document that I favor preserving the nationwide anthem, particularly now that virtue-signaling busybodies need it demoted. However the anthem’s strains—I believe we are able to admit this and stay good patriots—are a bit stilted. And the tune, written by the British church organist John Stafford Smith, is notoriously exhausting to sing. It really works nicely when sung by a high-spirited crowd, however for some purpose we insist on having soloists sing it earlier than public occasions. Most of those soloists’ renditions are cringe-makingly horrible, schmaltzed up with unhealthy rubato and under-the-note singing. It’s a must to stand there, mouth closed and feigning reverence, hoping the soloist’s voice doesn’t crack on the phrase “free.”
We’d really feel extra affection for our nationwide anthem if we had been all allowed to sing it collectively. However few Individuals sing collectively anymore. Bar songs aren’t any extra. Just a few know their faculty combat songs, however these are good for just one objective and are usually preposterous. Virtually the one individuals who nonetheless sing collectively are the non secular.
The Christian custom to which I’ve belonged most of my life—the Reformed custom of Protestantism—shouldn’t be well-known for its contributions to the western musical canon. Nevertheless it is well-known for its hymns and hymn-singing. The Lutherans have Bach; the Catholics have Monteverdi and Mozart and plenty of others; the Reformed have . . . Louis Bourgeois. He compiled and composed lots of of wonderful hymn tunes in Geneva in the course of the 1540s, together with “Outdated 100th,” to which many Protestant congregations sing the “doxology.”