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Involve public in state song replacement

I certainly hope the answer is "yes" to the question Sean Tully asks, "Is Md.'s state song the next relic to go?" (Feb. 1), but I am puzzled that he, a musician and member of the Baltimore Songwriters Association, opposes a process that would result in an open submission of "lyrics, melodies and other suggestions for a new state song." The process might be cumbersome, but it has the potential for not only producing a new state song, but other, unofficial, songs for Maryland.

I have some experience with this, because in 2011, on the 150th anniversary of the event on Pratt Street which inspired our current state song, I oversaw such a contest for the Baltimore City Historical Society. Our goal was not to replace the existing state song — thought then to be an unlikely goal — but to come up with alternatives that people could sing. After all, we not only have an official national anthem but also other patriotic songs, such as “America the Beautiful,” “God Bless America,” and Woodie Guthrie's “This Land is Your Land.” Why not have more Maryland songs?

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The society offered two prizes: one for new words to the existing tune, and one for both new words and tune. The contest wasn't well publicized, but we received several very fine entries. A committee of musical experts selected winners in each category. The winning songs haven't gotten as much exposure as we wanted, but the process shows that there are creative songwriters in Maryland who should be given a chance to sing our state's praises. We might get a new state song — as well as other songs about our small but diverse state. Why not give it a try?

Michael S. Franch, Baltimore

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The writer is a former president of the Baltimore City Historical Society.

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