Trying Out

I’ve heard the Star-Spangled Banner so many ways that it takes something really quite unique to surprise me. I’ve heard six part male harmony, I’ve heard it performed by a tuba quartet. I’ve heard it sung by little kids, I’ve heard it played on an expensive and rare violin. I’ve heard renditions so good that the hairs on the back of my neck prickled with emotion, and I’ve heard renditions so bad that they offended me personally.

To say that I’m a bit of a connoisseur of the National Anthem is a bit of an understatement. But, Tom, you say, can you really complain until you’ve tried out yourself?

No. Despite my music degree, despite my years of choral and solo voice, I’ve never performed it for a live audience, save those within the sound of my voice when I sing along at baseball games and other sporting events. It’s a nerve-wracking experience standing down on the field and singing into the giant expanse of a stadium, I’m sure. But I decided it was time to buck up and give the audition a try.

Sunday, after church, I headed into the District for the National Anthem tryouts at Nationals Park. I’d applied to tryout about a month ago on a whim, not expecting to hear back. Much to my surprise, late Thursday I got an email from Tom Davis, the entertainment coordinator for the Nationals, on instructions for trying out. About 70 of us gathered at Nationals Park on a rainy Sunday for a shot at the anthem on the field, live before an audience of thousands at a game, as well as heard over the Nationals and XM Radio networks.

They checked us all in, making sure we were on The List, and we all signed appearance waivers. They lined us up and we headed down to perform. Ideally, with good weather, we would have been singing on the field, with a live PA system. Sadly, it was a drizzly morning and we were lead to the auxiliary locker room where the bunch of us waited for our chance to wow the judges.

The group of singers ranged 8 to 68 or so, judging from looks alone. The 8 year old in the line to perform knew all the words and most of the notes, which made her thoroughly cute and enjoyable to the judges, I’m sure. That’s talent at 8. In my age bracket, though, there was a lot to compete with. There were American Idol knock-offs, and the teenager who sounded oddly like Janis Joplin (honey, get voice lessons so you don’t hurt yourself, and make sure to avoid the drugs, mmkay?) and the high school girl in our group who made sure that no note was left unbent with a country twang that would make Conway Twitty proud.

The barbershop quartet in our performing group, though, was something else. They sang most of the hour-plus wait, working on their close harmony, but not on the national anthem, but on other songs. It was great to hear their practice sessions get more and more enthusiastic, as they broke into the National Anthem at the appointed time and really did a great job. I hope we get a chance to hear them live at the stadium, as their counter-tenor was really quite spectacular.

How’d I do? Well, I think I rocked it pretty hard. I’ve got a big voice, and that little cinder-block locker room just wasn’t ready for that kind of power. I ripped through the first two stanzas (as the melody loaned to our National Anthem first belonged to To Anacreon in Heaven, a Drinking Song.) leading to a climactic third line in the sweet spot of my voice, slowing only to lead into the last line, with a ritardando at “Yet Wave” and a solid finish.

Did I get the part? I’m not sure. But I did have a blast singing it for a trial run. The Nationals have 80 home dates remaining (including a three game series starting tonight against the Marlins) and I suspect probably 40-50 of them were up for grabs yesterday. I like those odds. Here’s hoping…

The National Anthem — Originally uploaded by albolte

7 Comments so far

  1. Max (mcook) on April 7th, 2008 @ 12:00 pm

    Very cool! I hope you get chosen Tom. Not everyone can say they’ve sung the Star Spangled Banana in a ball park before.

  2. Don (dc_don) on April 7th, 2008 @ 1:26 pm

    I hope you get chosen AND you get enough lead notice so we can make sure we all have tickets!

  3. Udayan Tripathi (udayan) on April 7th, 2008 @ 2:11 pm

    What an experience! Do you get the patriotic warm fuzzies when you sing it? The anthem and the theme music for the West Wing inspire something very patriotic in me, which I love feeling.

    Hope you get chosen!

  4. The Ankle Biter @ » Blog Archive » the first big grill of the year (pingback) on April 7th, 2008 @ 2:44 pm

    […] other thing… Tom auditioned to sing the National Anthem at a Nats game yesterday. He nailed it, too. So if all goes well, he’ll get to sing at a game this summer. […]

  5. oldwood on April 14th, 2008 @ 1:42 pm

    Hey Tom, to my knowledge you are the only information that has come up since the audtions. I auditioned I was #7. Big Baritone voice. I have attempted to get some info about the tryouts,but have been unsucessful so far. I was really disappointed we did’nt get to sing on the field. I was really looking forward to that.If you have been contacted or have any up to date info. Let us know. I hope you get the opportunity to sing. I have sung for the potomac nationals for the past 3 years and its a very cool experience. This would be awsome! Good luck

  6. Tom Bridge (tbridge) on April 14th, 2008 @ 5:31 pm

    I’m still waiting to hear, myself… If I haven’t heard by Friday, I’ll update the blog.

  7. Metro Auditions Set | Washington D.C. Metblogs (pingback) on April 22nd, 2008 @ 8:11 am

    […] I may not have been successful in my bid for a national anthem slot at Nationals Park, I suppose I could try out to sing at the Metro. Metro’s looking for musicians to audition to […]

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