Should we open orchestra concerts with ‘The Star-Spangled Banner?’

Credit Wikipedia

Over on the Washington Post op-ed pages, classical critic Scott Cantrell calls it “an odd, and frankly inappropriate, custom” to perform “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the start of symphony orchestra concerts.

Cantrell cites a Fort Worth, Texas orchestra that began playing the anthem after the September 11th terror attacks, and continues doing so today.

The national anthem makes sense for concerts celebrating national holidays. I also understood playing it as a prelude to orchestra concerts, even opera performances, in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11. We felt damaged and vulnerable, and the familiar words and tune helped reassure us that we would survive that unprecedented attack. “The rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air” must have put a lump in every throat. The Dallas Symphony Orchestra continued playing it for several weeks thereafter, then quietly dropped it. But the Fort Worth orchestra has been doing it ever since, and it has been a part of Oklahoma City Philharmonic concerts since 1990, after a group of patrons signed a petition for it.

Cantrell’s main objection is that the national anthem isn’t a good fit with the rest of the musical program. At the very least, he says, there are better ways to honor current and former US military, not to mention flex those patriotic muscles.

I’m sharing the piece because it’s provocative, and it has a mere 57 comments, so go ahead and weigh in.


By dubuquecello

I'm a Dubuque, Iowa native. Interested in cello, tennis, donuts and other things. I'm a classical music optimist.

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