Star-spangled effort will celebrate national anthem's anniversary

Derek Carson

- Bennington Banner

This Saturday, June 14, the Smithsonian's Museum of American History will attempt to organize the world's largest collective singing of the "Star-Spangled Banner," to celebrate the song's 200th anniversary.

The event, "Raise it Up! Anthem for America," scheduled on Flag Day, will be based at the museum itself, at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., but communities all around the country have been invited to join in the singing at 4 p.m. In Bennington, Mount Anthony Union High School choir director Lynn Sweet encourages members of the community to join the choir at upper Willow Park, on East Road, for their singing. Registration will be from 3 to 3:15 p.m., followed by warmups at 3:30, and finally, joining the rest of the country in singing the national anthem at 4 p.m.

"People of all ages and abilities are welcome to join in," said Sweet.

Because the performance will be videotaped and sent to the Smithsonian to document the event, Sweet asks that those who wish to participate dress in any combination of red, white, and blue.

At the National Mall, a celebrity singer, who has not yet been named, will join Grammy-winning composer Eric Whitacre, who will conduct a 500-person choir in singing the anthem and "America the Beautiful." Hundreds of other choruses and community groups are expected to join them in spirit from across the country, and in some cases the globe.

"Americans have used the Star-Spangled Banner, both the flag and the song, to express diverse ideas of patriotism and national identity," said John Gray, director of the museum, "The historic events we are planning around the Star-Spangled Banner will create shared moments in our nation's history."

The museum hopes to set a new Guinness World Record for the largest collective national-anthem performance. The current record belongs to the Government of the Peoples' Republic of Bangladesh, which organized a 254,537-person singing of their national anthem, "Amar Sonar Bangla," or "My Golden Bengal," at the National Parade Ground in Dhaka, Bangladesh on March 26th of this year.

The museum will also unveil the result of its collaboration with the Smithsonian Channel, a documentary "A Star-Spangled Story: The Battle for America." According to the Smithsonian's website, the documentary "documents the story behind the 200-year-old anthem -- from the burning of Washington to the creation of the iconic American flag -- revealing the forgotten battle that could have changed the face of the nation."

"Two hundred years ago," said Gray, "Francis Scott Key, inspired by the sight of the flag's ‘broad stripes and bright stars,' wrote a song that gave new significance to a national symbol and started a tradition through which Americans have invested the flag with their own meanings and memories. It is an honor for the museum to be the home of the Star-Spangled Banner, and to preserve it for future generations."