Happy 4th of July to you all! I hope everyone is staying safe and enjoying this wonderful day with family and friends. I thought considering the holiday, I would give you a fun little music history post on our wonderful National Anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
The lyrics for our anthem are actually from a poem called “Defence of Fort M’Henry” written in 1814 by a young amateur poet named Francis Scott Key. He wrote the poem after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British during the war of 1812.
The poem was later set to the popular British tune called “The Anacreontic Song” by John Stafford Smith. The funny part was the tune was actually written for the Anacreontic Society which was a men’s social club comprised of a bunch of amateur musicians.
The poem actually has 4 stanzas though only the first one is used when sung. Most would say it’s due to the length the anthem would be if sung in it’s entirety. I say it’s because it’s one of the most difficult pieces to sing! It has a range of one octave plus one fifth! That is an entire semitone more than an octave and a half which is out of the comfort zone of most people when singing. Maybe that’s the reason why it took over 100 years to make it the National Anthem of the United States of America.
That’s right! It was officially recognized for use by the U.S. Navy in 1889 and then 1916 by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916, but wasn’t signed as our official anthem until President Herbert Hoover signed a congressional resolution on March 3rd, 1931. Before that “Hail Columbia” and “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” served as the de facto anthem during official functions.
Well that’s all I have for your little bit of history today. Have a wonderful 4th of July and go and enjoy some fireworks tonight!