Star-Spangled Music Week: Do alcohol and patriotism mix?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Star-Spangled Music Week
Raise a Glass to History Smithsonian

PATRIOTIC COCKTAILS? Click on these images from the Smithsonian Channel to visit the “Raise a Glass” website.

This weekend marks an historic event in American history: It’s the 200th anniversary of the birth of our national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner. (You’ll can read more about this historic milestone in Stephanie Fenton’s Holiday column.)

Shall we raise a glass to history?

You can do so at the Smithsonian Institution’s “Raise a Glass to History” celebration on September 12th in Washington, D.C., held at the National Museum of American History. The event features the nation’s top mixologists making cocktails “inspired by our spirited past” like Fort McHenry Flip, Colonial Ties, Of Thread and Theory, This Conflagration Nation, and Pickersgill Cocktail.

Simon Majumdar, the Food Network’s “toughest critic,” will host the event. Music is provided by the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra. A ticket is $200 because, well, it’s the 200th anniversary. Proceeds cover costs and benefit programming and research.

Francis Scott Key wrote his poem “Defense of Fort McHenry” on September 14, 1814, after witnessing the bombardment of the fort by the British the night before. He was inspired by the Stars and Stripes waving over the fort, indicating an American victory. It was a turning point in the long and brutal War of 1812.

Two hundred years later to the day, September 14, 2014, the University of Michigan features a faculty recital of Poets & Patriots: A Tuneful History of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Conducted by Jerry Blackstone, it includes a chorus and soloists, plus narration by musicologist Mark Clague. The event is free and open to the public. It takes place a 4 PM at the Hatcher Library, Room 100.

How do you plan to celebrate the bicentennial of our national anthem?

How well do alcohol and patriotism mix?

Star-Spangled Music Week: Want to hear 1100-plus musicians?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Star-Spangled Music Week
University of Michigan band performs in South Bend

Click the photo to see a 5-minute clip of the UofM band playing in South Bend.

Most people know three things about our national anthem: the name, lyrics, and how difficult it is to sing.

This Friday and Saturday, you have the opportunity to see over 1100 musicians perform the anthem! Want to hear them? Here’s how.

The extravaganza is the University of Michigan’s football halftime show, “Proudly We Hail,” at the Big House in Ann Arbor. It’s a celebration of the bicentennial this weekend of the birth of our anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner.

The show features the University of Michigan Marching Band, the University of Miami Marching Band, and the combined choirs from across the University of Michigan, including the Men’s Glee Club, the Women’s Glee Club, the University Musical Society Choral Union, and more. In total, over 1100 musicians will perform. The show will be narrated by University of Michigan musicologist Mark Clague.

Can’t make the game on Saturday? No worries. You have three other opportunities.

Friday night at 7 PM is a free dress rehearsal at the Big House. To get your free tickets, go to Click on “Promotion Code” at the top (3rd from right). Enter the promotion code: MMBDRESS. The rest is self-explanatory.

Another option is to watch the halftime show when it is televised—or when it inevitably appears on YouTube.

And, the third option is to view a recording of a University of Michigan Marching Band performance at South Bend last week. It’s not the grand extravaganza planned for this weekend, but the band did perform some patriotic music in South Bend. Here’s that link.

Do you plan to watch the “Proudly We Hail” show?

How will you and your family commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Star-Spangled Banner?

Star-Spangled Music Week: ‘Old Glory’ versus … a Panda?

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Star-Spangled Music Week

Bao Bao the Panda at the National Zoo in Smithsonian videoIf you had to pick the most iconic symbol of America, what would it be?

Would it be ‘Old Glory,’ the Stars and Stripes that was raised at Fort McHenry in 1814 and inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem that became our national anthem?

A portrait of George Washington, the father of our nation?

Something or someone else?

All summer long, the Smithsonian Institution has run its Summer Showdown, asking Americans to vote online for the most iconic symbols from among the Smithsonian’s collections. The contest has four categories—science, art, culture, and history—and six contenders in each one. More than 90,000 online votes were cast. After three rounds on voting, the finalists in each category are:

  • Science—Bao Bao, the giant panda cub born at the National Zoo.
  • Art—a portrait of George Washington.
  • Culture—A photo of Woody Gutherie.
  • History—Old Glory, the flag that flew over Fort McHenry in 1814.

Of these four, the finalists were—Old Glory and Bao Bao. In the final throwdown, I predicted that Old Glory would win. After all, this September is the 200th anniversary of the birth of our national anthem.

But it’s hard to beat an adorable panda. When the Smithsonian announced its winner, it was Bao Bao. The cub was born in August 2013, and is one of fewer than 2,000 pandas in existence. Here’s a Smithsonian video about Bao Bao’s first year …

How would you rank the 4 finalists?
Do you agree with Bao Bao as the #1 iconic symbol?
Is there another symbol that stands out for you?

Star-Spangled Music Week: A rising terrorist threat this Patriot Day?

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Star-Spangled Music Week

DISCUSSING TERRORISM AT THE HIGHEST LEVEL—Prior to his address to the nation on Wednesday evening President Barack Obama met with Vice President Joe Biden and with bicameral leadership of Congress. Participants include: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio and Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza, released for public use.)

Patriot Day was created by an act of Congress as an annual day of remembrance in the weeks after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that killed almost 3,000 people. The American flag is flown at half-staff on all U.S. government buildings and facilities around the world, and private citizens are urged to do the same at their homes.

Are you flying Old Glory at half-staff today?

The solemnity of Patriot Day 2014 occurs just before the 200th anniversary of the writing of our national anthem, penned by Francis Scott Key when he witnessed “Old Glory” flying over Fort McHenry after 25 hours of British bombardment. So far this week, we’ve looked at the lighthearted side of the bicentennial.

Today, we consider the renewed concerns about terror attacks on U.S. soil.

Prior to September 11, 2001, attacks by foreign terrorists on the U.S. homeland were believed to be impossible. 9/11 shattered that belief. Now, thirteen years later, Americans are very worried about new terror attacks, according to a new CNN/ORC poll, especially after the beheading of two American journalists by the jihadist group ISIS.

Do you think that ISIS poses a threat to the U.S.? Almost half of Americans (45%) say that ISIS poses a very serious threat to the U.S., with an additional 22% saying that ISIS is a fairly serious threat. Only 10% say the group is not a threat to the U.S.

Is terrorism the most important problem facing the country? Today, 14% of Americans say yes, putting terrorism at the top of their list of the most important problems we face. Two years ago, only 3% said terrorism was the most important problem.

Do you think ISIS has terrorists in the U.S. right now? Over seven of ten Americans (71%) say yes, ISIS terrorists are here. Just over a quarter (27%) of Americans disagree.

Will you flag the American Flag at half-staff today?
How much of a threat do you think ISIS is?

Star-Spangled Music Week: What did 1914 writers think about 2014?

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Star-Spangled Music Week
Scientific American 1914 issue with Woodrow Winson quote on the cover

WHAT DID 2014 LOOK LIKE A CENTURY AGO? To many American journalists, the future looked rosy! “The door of opportunity swings wide before us,” Wilson wrote in this 1914 issue of Scientific American. As we see on this cover, journalists 100 years ago also took pride in America’s patriotic symbols.

This weekend marks the 200th anniversary of the writing of our national anthem. One-hundred years ago was the Star-Spangled Banner’s centennial.

What did Americans think then about the bicentennial in 2014?

This month, celebrations of the bicentennial abound. We’ve discussed the Smithsonian Institution’s “Raise a Glass to History” event this evening, the “Proudly We Hail” half-time show at the University of Michigan football stadium tomorrow, and the giant panda cub Bao Bao, winner of the Smithsonian’s Summer Showdown of American symbols. Yesterday, the 13th anniversary of 9/11, we paused to remember the victims of the tragedy, and the threat posed today by the jihadist group ISIS.

ISIS and 9/11 were beyond thought and imagination in 1914, even though World War I already was raging among the European powers. The world in 2014—as imagined in 1914—was a much more peaceful place, according to a 1914 editorial in the Baltimore Sun that was just reprinted. In fact, “the most signal advance which the world will make in the next century will be moral and intellectual in character….” Science and sociology would enhance human health and eradicate poverty. And so on.

The Baltimore Sun editorial was right in line with what other major American publications were predicting that year. President Wilson wrote a letter to Scientific American magazine about the nation’s future role in the world. “It will be a signal service to our country to arouse it to a knowledge of the great possibilities that are open to it in the markets of the world. The door of opportunity swings wide before us,” Wilson wrote. “Through that door we may, if we will, enter into rich fields of endeavor and success.” The Scientific American editors were so impressed that they quoted the first line of Wilson’s letter on the magazine’s cover.

Most predictions about the future prove wrong, but the Baltimore Sun writer 100 years ago got one right—and it’s about the Star-Spangled Banner:

“Let our hope and prayer be that a hundred years from now, whatever other changes time may have wrought, the people of 2014 may still see the same banner waving over them that waves over us, and still symbolizing the principles of justice, brotherhood and equality of opportunity.”

How will you mark the bicentennial of our national anthem?

Does it make you feel good to hear the national anthem—or see the flag flying?

Note: In case you’ve been wondering about the outcome of the Raise a Glass to History competition, the winner is Gunpowder Cream—a concoction made of pure maple syrup, aged rum, English Breakfast tea, lemon juice, whipped cream, and cinnamon.