01/24/05 — OPINION -- Musical mutilation

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OPINION -- Musical mutilation

By Gene Price
Published in News on January 24, 2005 1:56 PM

Several years ago there was some discussion about changing the National Anthem. If I remember correctly, the respected Walter Cronkite entered the debate, suggesting that The Star-spangled Banner was "unsingable."

The late Congressman Walter Jones Sr., who favored sticking with the present anthem, was interviewed on the subject and the reporter mentioned Cronkite's view. Jones grinned. "I'm sorry Mr. Cronkite can't sing," he said.

We have a couple of musically inclined kids in our family. Oldest son Charles was good on the drums at Southern Wayne and now plays a bit of guitar. Our son John was excellent on the trumpet. Adopted daughter Joyce is a regular in the choir at First Presbyterian.

Daughters Susan and Bonnie have not been in demand for service in band, glee club or church choirs.

Their otherwise very talented mother has never offered, or been encouraged to offer, for band, glee club or church choir.

While as a teenager I sang bass in a little quartet that made the rounds at church revivals in Pasquotank County. I do not recall any requests for encores or subsequent appearances.

So I write this as no authority whatsoever on music.

But I do remember a little about musical scores.

Or thought I did until recent years during openings of major sporting events and even functions associated with presidential inaugurations.

On these occasions, renditions of The National Anthem almost invariably have come across as if coming from the voices of soloists riding roller coasters, introducing runs from highs to lows and back again that appear nowhere in the musical scores.

If the renditions are, indeed, delivered during roller coast rides, I urge the vocalists to make certain their seat belts are fastened securely -- and that they bring along copies of the music!

I also find myself being torn between the views of Mr. Cronkite and the late Congressman Jones. Is the National Anthem unsingable -- or do we simply have folks who can't sing?