Renee Fleming and the National Anthem, Vol. 13, Issue 14

Etiquetteer was so very pleased to hear earlier this month that soprano Renee Fleming would be singing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl this year. Etiquetteer has become increasingly dismayed at the histrionics displayed by Popular Singers every year in their "interpretations" of the venerable "Star-Spangled Banner." The National Anthem, like the White House, doesn't need to be anything but itself. Just as the former doesn't need to be gussied up with novelty lighting for state dinners, neither does the National Anthem need to be burdened with emotional embellishments. Because the most important guideline for any singer singing the National Anthem at a public event is to keep it simple enough for everyone singing along to do so without getting lost.

Madame Fleming acquitted herself, and the nation, admirably with her interpretation. Her one departure from the traditional arrangement, that extra-high note at the end, was delivered with such purity and with such harmony with everyone else doing their best to hit that one high note at the end, that Etiquetteer could only shed one patriotic tear and then start preparing an income tax return. While recognizing that this is a subjective opinion, Etiquetteer truly believes that public singers should be shown this arrangement before singing the National Anthem publicly, along with that of the late Kate Smith. Call Etiquetteer old-fashioned and sentimental if you will - they are medals Etiquetteer wears with pride - but Miss Smith's arrangement remains the definitive.