No one does the anthem better than Norwich

Patrick Newell

Attending four to five local sports contests a week during the winter sports season, I am amongst the crowd that rises, and removes one’s hat to show my respect for our flag and country for the home team’s rendition of the national anthem.
Count me among the many – especially before Sept. 11, 2001 – who were a bit antsy and impatient for the game to start. I cannot tell you how many times the Star Spangled Banner was butchered by kids making ill-advised attempts at improvisation. I’ve heard it sung out of key, singers using the wrong lyrics, and American Idol-wanna-bes taking their a capella moment to the extreme. There are only so many Patti LaBelle moments you can take before you begin to cringe.
After 9/11, patriotric pride was an all-time high. Even that scratchy pre-recorded instrumental version of the anthem had everyone standing a little straighter, and pressing their hand to their heart with more conviction and emotion.
Over the last couple of years, I have noticed some people fidgeting a bit more during the anthem – even players on the court – with people (read kids) joking, text messaging, and filling their face with recently-bought concession candy. Sometimes, the anthem seems like a mere formality. That happens when the home team plays a recording that is neither uplifting or emotion-invoking. In those instances, I occasionally find myself zoning out for the about a minute and a half – 90 seconds I wish I had back.
Catonia, however, is not a problem at Norwich varsity basketball games. In the last two years, it has become the norm for Norwich choir director, Mary Mayo, to arrange a harmonic offering of the national anthem with anywhere from four to perhaps a dozen kids performing for the home crowd. The young ladies and men have vocal ranges from soprano and alto, to tenor, baritone, and bass.
Not one time has this group come up short of impressive. Last weekend, before Norwich’s home varsity girls basketball game against Chenango Valley, I found myself beginning to well up as the Norwich choir completed the anthem. It was beautiful, as always, and the crowd – including the visitors from CV – rightly applauded vigorously.
Other schools have presently excellent presentations of the national anthem over the years, but no one does it any better than Norwich.