A New Key for an Old Anthem

A New Key for an Old Anthem

No public Fourth of July celebration 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 free Fourth of July community concert in City Park, 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 native of Fort Collins, recently graduated with his Bachelor of Music Composition from the Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois.

Boxley’s resulting composition, Fanfare for the National Anthem, will premiere during the Symphony’s 2018 “American Exploration” concert.  Happily, this will give the majority of us a chance to sing through “the rocket’s red glare” without falling flat!

Under the baton of Maestro Kenney, the Fort Collins Symphony will play other concert favorites until the annual fireworks display begins at dark.  Works will include: The Washington Post and The Stars and Stripe Forever (Sousa), 1812 Overture (Tchaikovsky), Cowboy Fantasy (Holcombe), On the Trail, Grand Canyon Suite (Grofe), America the Beautiful (Bates/Ward, arr. Dragon), and an Armed Forces Salute. The Fort Collins Symphony concert is sponsored by the City of Fort Collins, Guaranty Bank & Trust, and the Fan Foundation.

The Fort Collins Symphony (FCS) is the oldest arts organization and the only professional symphonic orchestra in Larimer County.  Now entering its 69th season, the Symphony has enriched lives and shaped the musical landscape of northern Colorado, serving as an enduring cornerstone of our community’s cultural foundation.  The FCS exists to perform spectacular live orchestral music and host educational events as a means of inspiring, bringing joy and providing an environment that is entertaining, nurturing, and inclusive for all residents of and visitors to Northern Colorado.  www.fcsymphony.org.