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Inaugural Moments

O Say, Can You Hear? 'Anthem Annie' Is Rehearsing

By Joe Holley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 18, 2005; Page B08

Anthem Annie's getting ready. Annie -- aka "The Anthem Lady," aka Donna Greenwald of Columbia -- is rehearsing in the shower, in the car, wherever she can steal a moment to prepare for her rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the Independence Ball, one of several inaugural balls scheduled for the Washington Convention Center on Thursday and the one representing states including Virginia and Maryland, along with the District.

It's not as if the 50-year-old lyric soprano is working with new material. Beginning July 6, 1993, when she sang before a Baltimore Orioles game, she embarked on a national anthem tour to all 30 major league ballparks in the United States and Canada. She completed her tour in Florida in 1999, with the Orioles playing the Devil Rays.

ABC TV technicians Mary Quinn and Scott Almond unload lighting equipment on top of the media stand opposite the presidential reviewing stand and the White House during preparations for the parade. (Susan Walsh -- AP)

Her anthem odyssey, she said, was inspired by emotions that welled up that first night in Oriole Park at Camden Yards. "If I could just inspire what I was feeling, then I would have accomplished something," she recalled thinking.

Greenwald drove or took the train to each diamond and often took her three children, including Rebecca Dawn, now 11 and named for the anthem.

"Anthem Annie" -- so dubbed by Toronto media -- always sings the anthem straight, with no Jimi Hendrix or Jose Feliciano flourishes. Except she adds a note to suggest a waving flag.

The Rockets' Red Glare

The rockets' red glare this year will rainbow over the White House.

"Somebody on the inauguration committee had to have a lot of pull to get that done," said Philip Butler, producer of tomorrow's fireworks extravaganza. He's a member of the Gruccis, known as "America's First Family of Fireworks." Butler, married to company President Donna Grucci, wouldn't reveal the identity of the committee member with pyrotechnic pull.

The eight-minute display, the Gruccis' seventh consecutive inaugural show, will blast off from Lafayette Square, north of the White House, so President Bush and other spectators on the south side can watch the display as it soars and blossoms over the executive mansion.

A highlight, Butler said, is a "21-gun salute" when the president arrives. Grucci also will set off simultaneous displays from sites on the Mall and at the Jefferson Memorial.

Blue in the Heart of Texas

"Some of my friends are going to the inauguration; I'm writing them off," Kate Koffman told Washington Post reporter Maureen Fan the other day. "We can be friends next year," said the stay-at-home mom and part-time public policy student at Georgetown University.

Koffman's disdain is shared by several Texans residing in Austin, a redoubt in the otherwise blazing-red Lone Star State. They're throwing a "true-blue inauguration-night party (a better, bluer bash!)" and expect maybe 200.

"Because we're trying to keep the budget under $40 million, we ask that you please bring your own wine, beer, soda or other beverage," the invitation says.

True Blue describes itself as "a grassroots group of 23 friends in Austin, Chicago, Minneapolis and Wisconsin who chose to do something to raise the level of dialogue about values in America."

True Blue founding member Jack Nokes, executive director of the Texas Association of Museums, said the group coalesced around four people who got together for a post-election commiseration supper and realized that they didn't want to feel depressed and angry for four years. Nokes stressed that he was speaking for the group and not for his association.

"Our idea was to create a blue wristband as a string around our finger to remind us how important our true-blue American values are," he said. "They're obviously not the ones the administration shares."

The True Blue invitation notes that a portion of the proceeds from sales of the bands "will be given toward directly helping those hurt by the policies of President Bush and his administration."

It Takes a Lot of Green

With D.C. temperatures in the teens this week, Texans and other visitors from warm-weather locales could be truly blue. They might want to check with Ritz-Carlton concierge Michael High. He's got fur coats for rent -- and they must be top-of-the-line, with a required deposit of $15,000.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company