How well do you know the National Anthem, and can you sing it?
Sunlen Serfaty interviews one man who helps people sing their hearts out.
It’s a song that can soar—-or sink.
Enter Michael Dean, on a mission to save singers’ egos and our ears.
“The worst part is those performances are bad for everyone, they’re bad for the singer and they are horrendous for the listeners,” says Michael Dean, Music Department Chair, UCLA.
Call it the “How-not-to-butcher-the-National-Anthem” class.
Scores pop stars—a list so exclusive, it’s kept secret—have come to him to prep for their National Anthem performances and avoid humiliation by learning not only the technique of the song, but it’s meaning.
The song has its hazards.
A sprawling vocal range of an octave and a half–setting up this crucial moment that—
“And the rocket’s red glare…”
Well, usually crashes and burns.
And the tricky lyrics, written not in the normal speech patterns, but in poetry.
“Oh say can you see, by the stars shining bright…
And the rockets red blare-glare…
O’er the ramparts we watched were so…”
Dean says so many people forget the words because they don’t understand them.
“…so gallantly streaming.”
“If it’s just a lot of nonsense words then the audience is going to perceive it as a lot of nonsense words. So studying why this piece was originally written is a very important for the singer to do,” says Dean.
And sadly, it seems these days, the anticipation of a bad anthem is now the norm.
“A lot of people have told me when they listen to the national anthem and it goes reasonably well, the only feeling that they feel is relief, they don’t actually feel moved, or changed, or inspired, just feel relief that it wasn’t awful,” says Dean.
Cringe-worthy moments Dean is working one note at a time to avoid.