Monday, February 4, 2013

Banner Year

She got it right. Oh not the halftime show at the Super Bowl. Beyonce was great, sure. But something else. Something that probably very few people took notice of or even cared about. Alicia Keys got the anthem right. If Mrs. Taylor, my elementary school music teacher, had been alive to see the spectacle, she'd have heartily approved of Alisha's rendition. She may have enjoyed the slow drawn out version. Or not. My guess is that after hearing so many versions for so long she'd have enjoyed the talented and classy Ms. Keys. But her praise would have been directed specifically at the way she sang the last line and the way she sang the word "bann-er."
Mrs. Taylor came into my 4th, 5th and 6th grade classes every Thursday. As a designated soprano, I along with my classmates, would dutifully sing such grade school classics as "The Erie Canal" while she strummed her auto harp. A hulk of a woman with a pot belly and a penchant for sucking her teeth, Mrs. Taylor combined equal parts fear and inspiration. And we sang. Boy did we sing. We sang weekly, we sang at school assemblies, we sang, in a manner of speaking, these songs all our lives. But there would come a time in every lesson with her that Mrs. Taylor would ask us if we happened to see the baseball or football game televised the previous weekend. In those days it was one game a week on TV. She'd then proceed to tell us how whomever was selected to sing the national anthem got the word banner wrong. All too often the singer sang "Oh say does that star-spangled ban-an-er yet wave...." "It's not ban-an-er, it's bann-er," she'd implore. Then she'd whip out that auto harp and madly strum the section of the anthem in question. "Bann-er...bann-er...bann-er, not BAN-AN-ER. She'd be fairly red by now. She was very much in ernest. This was serious business and you'd better get it right or Senator McCarthy would come after you. Well, maybe not that serious, but we heard this tirade every week. She won. Mr. Taylor won. I can never hear the national anthem without waiting for the singer to say the magic word. That's why when Alicia sang it at the Super Bowl, the ghost of Mrs. Taylor sat watching with me. Alicia got it right. Was it ever in doubt?

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