Our nation's anthem is not a performance to be taken lightly.

In seeming response to my touting of the student sections at St. Helens and Scappoose, I’ve found a new challenger. In fact, Lions and Indians, you’ve been shown up.

For any fans that traveled to the St. Helens game at Rex Putnam, you know exactly what I mean. No disrespect to cheerleaders, but I’ve never seen a crowd follow the girls with pom-poms before. Normally, the hard work of the cheer squad falls by the wayside in favor of a good throaty yell or the age-old stomping of the feet.

   The Kingsmen are an entirely different story. Maybe it’s the wealth in the surrounding area, but from the moment you step on the football field, it’s obvious Rex Putnam has their game day operations figured out.

Their grandstand filled with onlookers for senior night, even though the football team sports a 2-5 record. Rowdy leaders riled up a vocal student section; a group of kids that had obviously spent time learning the cheers so they could participate with the cheerleaders. Tents along the north end of the field sold food, trinkets and fan paraphernalia, and the announcer mixed in valuable sponsor messages with entertaining pregame commentary and starting lineups. The band had a wide variety of music to appease music lovers across any genre. Rex Putnam has everything figured out. Almost.

The band finished their last pregame song. All in attendance stood, held their hands over their hearts and waited for the national anthem to be played. After the band’s solid and enthusiastic performance for the few minutes I spent waiting for the game to start, I had high expectations, only to be a little let down.

Their performance of the “Star Spangled Banner” was actually one of the better versions I’ve heard (Tillamook’s being the worst), and I have a hard time deciding where my disappointment comes from. Given, I played in the marching band in high school for all four years. I sang in the vocal jazz ensemble as well. I’ve been in the position to perform the national anthem countless times, and I know the challenges it brings.

Putnam did a decent job. So does St. Helens, and though I haven’t heard Scappoose, I’m sure they do alright as well. But what concerns me is there is a difference in the quality of the school fight song and our country’s national anthem. Before you fellow music nuts get on my case about it being a really, really difficult song, I understand. I just think it deserves to be the best song the band - or the choir - performs that evening.

The song is a symbol of our country. It tells the story of the fated battle at Fort McHenry during the war of 1812 in which the flag stood through the night and into the morning, in spite of British bombardment. Such a story should invoke a sense of pride. It’s a proud - but scary - honor to play or sing the national anthem, and those who do should be as prepared as they are for the school fight song.

It’s not just the band, though. As much as the performers should respect the anthem, it demands respect from the audience as well. It’s alright to cheer and applaud. In fact, getting excited about our proud country’s symbol is the intent, but within reason. Showing respect to the country and appreciation to the performers is great, yelling like a banshee just before the last phrase is just about making noise. You know who you are.

- John Howard @JowardHoward

Contract Publishing

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