Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Oh, Say Can You Filk?



While watching the World Series last week, I realized that our National Anthem fits at least one definition of a filk song: new lyrics set to an existing tune. Unfortunately for us—and especially for the people who had to sing it before each game—the existing tune is a drinking song called “To Anacreon In Heaven.”

I once remarked at the start of a DAR meeting that it was easier to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” if you were drunk, and the Regent promptly drafted me to sing it for that meeting. I managed, but only because I’d spent twenty years working for an opera buff who insisted I take voice lessons. I’m also a light lyric soprano, so I can usually hit all the high notes. (I noticed a lot of transposition of sections of the tune during the series. Transposing the whole thing doesn’t help—it’s got a range similar to “Banned from Argo.”) In addition to being drunk when you try to sing it, it may also be helpful to be less than perfectly sober while listening to it. Fortunately, they sell beer at baseball games, so the latter is easy to achieve.

The original song ends: “... long may the Sons of Anacreon intwine, The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's Vine.” At least in melody, they’ll be doing it as long as our country endures.