As Defenders' Day approaches here in Baltimore, we will be commemorating the two-hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Baltimore and Francis Scott Key's composition of "The Defence of Fort McHenry."
I expect that the ink was scarcely dry on the poem when people were singing it, to the tune of "To Anacreon in Heaven," a British drinking song. It caught on, of course, though "The Star-Spangled Banner" did not become the official national anthem until 1931.
In 1879, Dudley Buck, an American organist and composer, used the tune in a composition for organ later orchestrated as the "Festival Overture on the American National Air," also known as the "Festival Overture on the 'Star-Spangled Banner.'"
Surely someone in Baltimore will find a way to program this work during the bicentennial season. Performances to be found on YouTube merely whelm, but it's not hard to imagine how an orchestra might add a little pizzazz. (I am not suggesting church bells and ordnance.)
It would be an act of patriotism.
Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun