Detail of Main Façade, Library of Congress, Washington D.C., 2012.
Yesterday (3 July 2014) we had the remarkable experience of hearing Spokane’s Thomas Hampson, probably the finest American singer of his generation, celebrate the 200th anniversary of the “Star Spangled Banner” in the venerable Cooledge Auditorium at the Library of Congress. The concert began with some precursors of the national anthem, including its original music with the verses of “Anacreon in Heaven" as it would have been sung by members of the London musical club for which it was composed. Several early and parody versions of the national anthem itself were sung, and the program concluded with the form in which the “Star Spangled Banner” is most familiar today. The concert was a stirring and educational experience, and oh the wonder of hearing the “Star Spangled Banner” sung by a master (backed by an excellent chorus, for early versions included choral refrains!).
The concert also included a piece commissioned by the Spokane Symphony for Hampson in honor or of Abraham Lincoln. The free concerts at LC are one of the few great benefits of living near Washington, DC, allowing one to hear some of the world’s finest musicians for the simple costs of ordering a free ticket in advance and showing up.
The actual 200th Anniversary of the anthem is not until 14 September, but the concert and celebration were timed to coincide with the Independence Day festivities.