This question was asked to Marilyn vos Savant by David Graham of San Diego, CA…
[ul]Our national anthem has four stanzas, yet I’ve never in my life heard more than one of them! Why are they omitted?[/ul]
Basically she said we do it out of respect to the British. I’m not going to dispute her on this. But we come to the last paragraph of her answer…
[ul]Most of us sing it dreadfully. It’s notoriously difficult [no disagreement there –SN], and we usually sing the first stanza wrong: The last line is written as a question…but we pronounce it as a statement instead.[/ul]
OK, I’m asking this as a former choir and madrigal singer (baritone or bass) who has come across this song on occasion.
How can you sing the last line of stanza one as a question?
If you don’t have a group and sing it in parts, the notes go down in the final part of the phrase (“of the brave?”). Eighth-note F, quarter-note D, dotted-half C (Of course this note is typically held for much longer. Actually the highest note of the whole song on "O’er the land of the free" which falls on a high G.
Ok when one asks a question in English, that doesn’t have a “question word” in the sentence, we tend to end the sentence on a higher note (at leasted the last stressed syllable). You can’t really do that here.
But now that I think about it, the last line is part of a longer phrase. “O say, does that Star Spangled Banner yet wave/ O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”. Isn’t where the word “does” has been placed indicate that it is a question? Or is her complaint that there’s too big of a break between the words “wave” and “O’er”?
Is there any way to thing the last line in this stanza and the last line in the last stanza[sup]*[/sup] using the same notes (allowing for whatever vocal flourishes one may wish to add to the song at the end) do differentiate that the former is a question and the latter is a statement?
[sub]* The last lines of the song go like this:
And conquer we must when our cause is just/And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”/And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave/O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.[/sub]