Music is a participatory art. It’s one thing to hear a beautiful song, but it’s quite another to contribute your own voice to a heartfelt chorus. Even a near-perfect solo cannot match the thrill of a thousand voices raised in unison.
In the modern “look at me” culture, the chances for that kind of inspiring communion have fallen by the wayside. Case in point: At public sporting events and other gatherings, the singing of the National Anthem has given way to “performances” in which melodic embellishments and tempo changes render the tune itself unrecognizable. And forget trying sing along. Haven’t we all heard too many of those ear-splitting renditions?
The remarkable Whitney Houston version from the 1991 Super Bowl aside, there remains nothing quite so thrilling as thousands of people singing the Star-Spangled Banner together at the tops of their lungs.
Many may consider soccer the least American of team sports, but the organizers of that game get one thing completely right. For international matches, the anthems for competing teams are not performed by pop stars, but are sung by the players and supporters of each side before the game. Nothing seems more American than that. Here’s hoping a few other sports follow that lead.