(Reprinted from the Philadelphia
  Forum, July 31, 1997)
    In his Fourth of July speech at Independence 
  Hall, Ted Turner created a small flurry 
  when he suggested we should switch to a 
  less militaristic national anthem.  There 
  was a time when I would have agreed with him.  
  Lately, however, I've begun to feel the anthem 
  we have has some appealing virtues.
    For one thing, since we only sing one verse, 
  it may be the only national anthem that usually 
  ends with a question.  That's an appropriate 
  quality, it seems to me, when the nation being 
  glorified is an open ended experiment.  A 
  truly militaristic anthem would proclaim that 
  our flag will fly over our country-- and perhaps 
  a few others-- until the universe implodes.  Ours 
  merely asks if the symbol of our nation has made 
  it through another night.
     My favorite Fourth of July ritual is the 
  ceremony that starts behind Independence Hall in 
  the afternoon.  The first half of the ceremony 
  honors the politicians who signed the Declaration 
  of Independence.  The second half takes place in 
  front of the memorial to the Unknown Revolutionary 
  Soldier in Washington Square, where a wreath 
  laying pays homage to the nameless footsloggers 
  who enforced the politicians' decision.
     For the last three years, the ceremony has 
  included a Star Spangled Banner sung by a soloist 
  from one of our local music schools.  In 1995, 
  AVA baritone Edward Albert inaugurated the 
  series with a particularly moving performance.  
  Albert's restrained, beautifully modulated 
  approach projected the dignified pleasure 
  the citizen of a great democracy should feel 
  when he sings the national song of his country 
  on an important occasion.  In 1996, Curtis tenor 
  Kamil Boutras sang the anthem with classic 
  operatic flair without overdoing it.  This 
  year another baritone, Curtis graduate Richard 
  Shapp, attacked his moment on stage with a 
  fervor that caught me by surprise.  I hadn't 
  heard Turner's speech so I didn't realize 
  Shapp was probably responding to his remarks.
     It was a pleasure to hear all three of them.  
  We should be grateful, nowadays, for any event 
  that lets us hear that soaring melody sung by 
  vocalists who don't have to take a breath 
  every three syllables.
  Copyright (c) 1997 by Tom Purdom.  All rights 
  reserved.  This document may be printed out 
  and archived for personal use only.  All other use is 
  strictly prohibited.  A slightly different 
  version of this piece appeared in the 
  Philadelphia Forum for July 31, 1997

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