I attend sporting events on a very regular basis.
Nearly all of them begin with some version of our national anthem. Last week, I had a Star Spangled Banner first.
Hearing something new caught my attention.
Most of the football games kick off after a marching band blasts the stadium with a straightforward rendition.
Since the 1991 Super Bowl, I’ve heard Whitney Houston’s version about a million times. She’s very popular on the high school basketball circuit.
Talented teens from the home team’s school sometimes provide live vocal renditions. Usually they try to personalize with extra trilling ala Mariah Carey or the latest boy band hiccups that are distracting and can make the song seem to last forever.
I’ve heard a high school kid do a very close approximation of Hendrix with his electric guitar. (Kudos to the school principal for allowing that one.) At the same school, a young woman played the tune on a violin/fiddle.
Another school in our area wheels a piano onto the gym floor about once a basketball season and we are serenaded by the tickling of the ivories.
As far as brass instruments, the trumpet and saxophone have been utilized occasionally.
But last week, my ears perked up at a different sound.
The gym was packed for the playoffs and I was standing at the end near the bleachers preparing my camera when the announcement was made to rise for the playing of our national anthem. The usual background noise of the shuffle of feet and rustling of clothes created as all citizens on hand rose to honor their nation was filtered by my brain. The actual star spangled banner was attached to the wall at the opposite end of the arena, so nearly everyone in the building had their back turned to me. The bench players from the opposing team were strung out across the court waiting to high five their starting five when they were introduced after the song was over.
Then the music began. I couldn’t see the performer for all the athletes, managers, coaches and officials in between me and the scorers’ table. The notes were obviously familiar, but the way they were conveyed to me was out of the norm.
A clarinetist had everyone’s ear and performed admirably.
Benny Goodman would have been proud.