No public Fourth of July celebration or sporting event is complete without a rousing rendition of Francis Scott Key’s The Star-Spangled Banner.
And, while nothing is nearer and dearer to the American ear than our national anthem, it is just a STINKER to sing! Why? Because John Stafford Smith composed this tune in the key of B flat major with a very wide vocal range. Played in its original key, the work is pitched a titch too high for altos and basses and a tad too low for sopranos and tenors to sing comfortably in tune.
During this year’s opening Masterworks concert, the Fort Collins Symphony will tame the highs and lows of this challenging melody. The impetus comes from Dr. Ed Siegel, a native son and avid FCS supporter, who has championed lowering the key of the national anthem for over two decades. Following conversations with Siegel, FCS conductor Wes Kenney asked 2017 music composition intern Ethan Boxley to transpose the anthem into the key of G major. Boxley, a Fort Collins native, recently graduated with his Bachelor of Music in Composition from the Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois.
Boxley’s resulting composition, Fanfare for the National Anthem, opened the Symphony’s 2018 Masterworks 1 concert. Happily, this will give the majority of us a chance to sing through “the rocket’s red glare” without falling flat!