January 30, 2013

Whether Beyonce lip-synced the national anthem may be of temporary interest [“Give us reality — and also give us perfection,” Style, Jan. 24], but the main issue regarding “The Star-Spangled Banner” is how difficult it is to sing. The range of the song is very demanding, and most people cannot manage the reach. When events require the anthem to be sung, in nearly all cases it is as a rehearsed set piece, performed by professionals or highly proficient amateurs, while the rest of us stand in silence.

Circumstances have allowed me to be present on several occasions in France on July 14, when the French celebrate their independence. Whether it be in small villages or in Paris, everyone sings the French anthem, “La Marseillaise.” It has a smaller range than “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and the experience of hearing it sung by a large group of people is very moving.

When I suggest to Americans that we should consider changing our anthem to one that is easier to sing, the response is nearly always negative. Many believe that the anthem was installed when Francis Scott Key wrote the text during the War of 1812. That is not the case. It was in 1931 that, by congressional order, “The Star-Spangled Banner” became our anthem. I wonder if people actually tried to sing it at that time.

David Marchand, Towson, Md.