All rise

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 6, 2006

I attended Fourth of July festivities Tuesday night in Halifax.

Just before the fireworks show the event organizer asked everyone to sing the Star Spangled Banner.

To say I was shocked at the state of our national anthem would be putting it mildly.

Many people did stand and sing but it was obvious that people didn’t know all the words. Much of the younger generation just went about their business during the song, carrying on with little respect to the national anthem on our nations’ birthday.

I remember the days when the anthem played; you stood, took off your hat and sang.

Unfortunately that tradition seems to be going by the wayside.

Last year my husband and I attended a Toronto Blue Jays baseball game in Toronto.

Before the game started both the Canadian and American national anthems were sung.

I was extremely moved by the volume of people signing the Canadian anthem.

Even during the Stanley Cup finals, when they played in Edmonton you could hear the audience’s voices through the television.

The tradition and feeling towards their national anthem and heritage was obvious.

Playing the anthem before sports has been a tradition since World War II.

The song was written during the Revolutionary War by Francis Scott Key, a lawyer visiting the British fleet in the Chesapeake Bay.

Key was attempting to secure the release of a prisoner.

The release was successful but Key was kept on board the ship overnight because Fort McHenry, one of the forts defending Baltimore came under fire.

The next morning the American Flag was still flying over the fort and Key wrote a poem to honor the occasion.

Many music artists have tried to put their own spin on the anthem.

One memorable such performance was that of Rosanne Barr back in 1990.

I can still remember the screeching she tried to pass off as singing as she disgraced the anthem.

Steven Tyler of Aerosmith sang the anthem before the Indianapolis 500 in 2001 and changed the last line from &uot;home of the brave&uot; to &uot;home of the Indianapolis 500.&uot;

Suffice to say, veterans were not amused with Tylers impromptu lyrical change.

Then there are the people that perform the song but don’t know the words or the tune.

After a quick internet search I found references to performances by Robert Goulet in 1964 and Carl Lewis in 1993.

I also remember a performance during a sporting event where the young lady forgot the words and the audience had to carry her through the song.

Of course a number of singers have been noted for their performance of the anthem.

Whitney Houston’s version is probably the most played rendition of the national anthem and I must admit I like it.

However, I feel the anthem is a tradition and as such does not need to be adapted to the latest musical instrumentation or diva’s desires to outshine previous performances.

The anthem is not a song meant to define one artist, but a nation.

The next time you attend a sporting event, stand up, take off your hat and sing the anthem.

The anthem symbolizes the very freedoms that allow so many people to disrespect it.

It is a symbol of our country, not just a sport or a person and deserves our respect.

You can reach Heather Odom at