I've sung in the sterile and very solitary space of recording isolation booths, many smoky and beer-soaked bars, and also some some very unusual settings before. Probably the strangest was the chapel of the mausoleum at Holy Cross Cemetery in Fox Hills, CA. In that case, five minutes before the service I was asked to sing Ave Maria (the lyrics of which I didn't know) at the funeral of a friend's mom. After throwing together as much Latin as I could remember from High School, I stepped out in front of everyone still living that I'd ever remembered from the films I'd watched as a kid, stood right next to Ray Bolger's section of the wall, found a note and just started singing...
Still, I'm not sure that anything quite prepares you for singing Our National Anthem right there on the Blazers logo smack dab in the center of the Rose Garden court with cameras rolling. The earlier sound check definitely helps though!
As Jennifer walked me through the court-level concourse I asked my questions about the mic, reviewed what to do before and after singing - and then...there you are, walking into the tunnel and across the court, dodging cameras, yoga straps and refs as you go - Jennifer weaving you through to the announcer's table.
Amazingly, with everything going on, everyone in motion and alert, and the game just about to begin - everyone is very relaxed, and open. Broadcaster, Mike Rice, congratulated me on the earlier sound check, and asked where I was from. After ten years here I consider myself a Portlander - and was very pleased to be announced as "Portland's Own."
Jennifer hands you the mic as the color guard marches out and sets. The lights dim. You walk out to the Blazer logo as your name is announced - the crowd hushes...and then it's up to you...to find that note...
Hopefully, as you walk out, you have a pretty good idea of where that note is. Personally, I don't like the idea of pitch pipes -- too many bad childhood memories that involve nuns...
For the Star-Spangled banner, which is rangy to say the least, I tend to think of how I want to sing the word "free" and then drop it down an octave to start. Once you start - well...you are where you are tonally. After that, I try to channel our soldiers present and past, and think of what it must have been like to actually see our flag waving over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812.
I'm not one to try to embellish the Anthem, but I know that's a personal choice. If trills come from the heart - by all means put them in - but if ever a song wasn't about "the singer" I believe our National Anthem is that song. Still...you do have to be verrrry careful about technique and support - and especially, having a plan for where you breathe (and a backup plan). You definitely need a strategy.
The important thing about singing the anthem for a large crowd - especially in uncertain times - is to listen to the crowd as well as yourself. In a sense...the crowd directs you - there are definitely notes and words they want to hold onto...which means the singer needs to hold onto them as well - so choose your breaths wisely :) !
The Blazer fans are great - and it is an amazing feeling to hear them as you finish. Incredible to walk off that floor and have folks reach out to you as you walk out.
The funny thing...is the jumbo tron! As you leave the court, walk through the various concourses and find your family and friends - everybody knows you! They've just watched a twenty foot version of your face for the last few minutes!
It's an amazing feeling. Singers! Next September - watch the Blazers site. Look out for the tryouts - and do it!