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'Star-Spangled Banner' 200th birthday honored at Library of Congress July 3

Francis Scott Key autographed handwritten manuscript of "The Star-Spangled Banner". Includes a portrait of Key, copy of "The Star Spangled Banner (Second session)", an ad for the song, and an article.
Library of Congress. Star-Spangled Banner Performing Arts Encyclopedia

O say you can see and hear "The Star-Spangled Banner" 200th birthday concert by opera star Thomas Hampson, a panel discussion by music experts, and a display of treasured artifacts at the Library of Congress July 3.

At the free program, "Poets and Patriotism: The 200th Birthday of The Star-Spangled Banner", the renowned baritone will sing American music from Colonial times through today, and chat about our national anthem's history.

The audience will "Lift Every Voice and Sing" along in "America the Beautiful" and, yes, "The Star-Spangled Banner".

Part of the display will continue through Monday, July 26, in the Great Hall of the Thomas Jefferson Building:

  • Early and rare editions of "The Anacreontic Song", the well-known tune used by Francis Scott Key to set his lyrics for "The Star-Spangled Banner" (Anacreon was a Greek God of frivolity and fun).
  • Early prints of Key's lyrics -- written not as a poem, but as lyrics.
  • Info about "The Anacreontic Song" (a.k.a. "Anacreon in Heaven") composer, John Stafford Smith. (It was "sung over and over at men's clubs...," according to Burton Kummerow, co-author of "In Full Glory Reflected: Discovering the War of 1812 in the Chesapeake".)
  • Info on "The Star-Spangled Banner" path to official national anthem status in 1931.
  • The first official government version of the anthem, that sets the standards on its melody and lyrics.

The July 3 panel features:

  • Musicologist Mark Clague of the University of Michigan.
  • Susan Key, executive director of the Star Spangled Music Foundation, dedicated to sharing resources and educational projects about American patriotic song.
  • James Wintle, a reference specialist in the Library of Congress Music Division.

Hampson will be accompanied by pianist Matthew Thompson and the University of Michigan Alumni Chorus.

One of the most sought-after soloists, in 2013 Hampson was:

  • Inducted into the "Gramophone" "Hall of Fame".
  • Honored also as a Metropolitan Opera Guild "Met Mastersinger".
  • Presented with the first Venetian Heritage Award.

The anthem's actual birthday is Sept. 14, 1814, after the 25-hour Battle of Baltimore, that gave us both Star-Spangled Banners. Baltimore's Fort McHenry is where our flag was still there, as Francis Scott Key observed and wrote about.

Key, a lawyer in Washington, D.C. and amateur poet, observed the flag from a truce ship while negotiating the release of a friend held captive by the British.

Key jotted down his lyrics, originally titled "The Defence of Fort McHenry", to the tune of a popular British drinking song, "Anacreon in Heaven". (Hard to sing it even when sober.)

Soon re-named "The Star-Spangled Banner", Congress made it our official national anthem in 1931.

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