In the past 12 hours there’s been quite the hubbub over the National Anthem as sung by American Soprano Renée Fleming. Miss Fleming was the very first classical singer to sing the National Anthem in its history.
Other CCM artists have performed the National Anthem (including Cheryl Ladd – what was THAT about??), but a solo classical artist was never given that musical platform. As a person who was trained in the ‘classical mold’ it was really exciting to see an artist of Fleming’s stature get the opportunity to bring classical singing to the forefront.
The National Anthem has gone through interesting performance trends in the past several years, with many singers interpolating runs, riffs, high notes, wrong words, and all imaginable variations. The comic result taken on by Maya Rudolph in this clip below demonstrate just how far it can go.
The most common criticism of Fleming’s performance was “Why did she sing it in that key? It was so low! Did she have any say in the key that was selected?”
I admit myself to being a little surprised at the lower tonal range that Fleming was singing in. But then I thought:
Wow. Renée Fleming is trolling America.
In an age when we have become so accustomed to high, higher, loud, loudest when it comes to the National Anthem, Fleming delivered an almost UNDERSTATED rendition. She gave the American public something it might not have been prepared for: a no-frills rendition .
Now, Fleming is a singer of some technical proficiency. She easily could have added cascades of trills, volate, and the like – she HAS the chops to do this. Yet this technically accomplished singer gave a vocally unadorned (except for one last high note) version. That alone is food for thought on the selection of the key.
I think Renée made a pretty genius move. She offered up something that we haven’t seen in a National Anthem in a long time: simplicity. I’d say that the choice of key was a brilliant decision on her part, and would explain why so many of my non-musician friends were brought to tears.
Simple, unadorned singing touches the human heart.
Renée, thanks for giving us a simple, beautiful melody and singing with simplicity and beauty. AND for showing us that just because you CAN do something vocally, doesn’t mean you SHOULD!