I’ve been to many sporting events where the National Anthem has been butchered by a “lucky” person who’s been chosen to sing it. Not that I would have done any better, but I have sympathy for them. The Star Spangled Banner is a notoriously tricky song to sing. The notes of the song are stretched out over a wide tonal range and one of the most common mistakes is that people start out singing too high. By the time the line “O’er the land of the free” near the end is reached (if one doesn’t start out low enough at the beginning), the singer is either straining to reach the note or awkwardly switches key to a lower note.
Most singers at these events are amateurs and haven’t sung before a big audience or in a large venue. Nerves can get the best of them and the sound of their own voice echoing around a stadium can throw them off. Many times words are unintentionally dropped and even whole lines can go missing.
I recently covered a Sacramento RiverCats game at Raley Field in West Sacramento. When Sabrina Bruce got up to sing she got a little help. The lyrics of the National Anthem flashed across the message board portion of the scoreboard in centerfield as she sang. Whether she needed the help or not is unknown but I’m sure it was nice to have it there as a backup just in case.