Hmmm hmmm hmmm hmmm BRIGHT STARS

March 28, 2009 at 7:05 pm 2 comments


I was a sophomore in high school, and it was during the T-Bird Classic basketball tournament, so it must have happened in December of 1991.  I was on the basketball team that year, still relegated to the junior varsity and not yet bumped up to the status of varsity bench warmer.  The varsity team was scheduled to play their opening game later that night.

At Circle, we had a tradition of singing the National Anthem only before the 8:00 boys’ game.  The 6:15 girls’ game usually wasn’t deemed important enough to be kicked off by the Anthem.  However, since we were in a tournament situation, my basketball coach decided at the last minute that we needed to buck tradition and have the National Anthem performed before the game.

I had performed the Anthem before games a few times, both solo and in small groups.  Coach Gibbs approached me directly at 4:30 that afternoon about performing the Anthem, circumventing the bureaucratic policy of clearing it with the music instructor first.  Flattered by being asked, and a sucker for any sort of solo time, I immediately said yes.  I did vocal warmups in the locker room and tried to find the right starting pitch.  Usually, I would have had the pitch pipe to start me out on the note, ensuring that I wouldn’t get too high towards the end of the song.  I was more worried about getting out of the high end of my range than anything.

The time came for me to sing.  I stepped up to the microphone and began to sing.  “Ohhhhh, say…can…you…seeeeee…” I launched into the first stanza.  The thing about me is that I’m constantly thinking ahead to the next lyrics, even as I’m singing other words.  My brain is always moving ahead to what’s next in the choreography or the song.  As I sang through that first stanza, I was thinking ahead to the next lines.

“…What so proudly we hailed,” I sang, “…At the twilight’s last gleaming.”  And then I realized it: I couldn’t remember the next words.  The first line of the second stanza had escaped me completely.  In that half a breath between lines, I had to make a decision: either stop singing or start humming.  And I knew there was no way I could stop.

So I hummed the next few notes until my brain could engage again.  “Hmmm hmmm hmmm hmmm BRIGHT STARS,” I sang as the words suddenly flooded back into my brain.  I could feel my face burn.  I felt, more than saw, people in the bleachers turn to each other with a smirk and a question in their eyes, wondering if they had really heard me just hum four notes of the Anthem.  Yes, yes, they heard correctly.

I finished the rest of the song without incident and fled from the gym floor.  I wanted to flee.  Unfortunately, as a member of the team, I was required to sit behind the team bench and cheer.  So I took my place in the bleachers and waited for the ribbing.

And I got it, although not nearly as much as I expected.  Some people didn’t notice the problem.  Others noticed, but very nicely kept their comments to themselves.  One team member’s parent even went so far as to comment to me, “I wouldn’t have the courage to get up and sing it at all.  You should remember that!”

I highly doubt ANYONE besides me (and my immediate family) remembers that incident.  As a performer I’ve had so many other mishaps onstage: my halter dress came undone at a performance in college.  I threw up off the back of the performing risers between songs by the North Street Singers when I was in the fifth grade.  (I will write about that another day!)  When you put yourself on stage and in the public eye, things happen.

It’s been 18 years since that incident and I will probably still remember it 40 years from now, just as I vividly remember every other stage mishap throughout the years.  I was mortified for so long by my gaffe, but I’ve come to realize that it was indicative of who I am that I didn’t quit, that I plowed through despite the mistake and finished what I had started.  The moral of the lesson took me a long time to realize, but now I use it as a motivation to plow through things that are difficult, even when the only thing I want to do is flee.  And that’s a lesson worth learning.


Entry filed under: Life in general.

I don't need a degree in English to write. Hi, I'm Amy, and I am addicted to books.

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Danica  |  March 28, 2009 at 8:22 pm

    I totally remember the day you threw up when we were in North Street Singers!! I also remember when Todd passed out while we were singing-I think we were older though?! Oh that’s some funny stuff!

  • 2. amymanatee  |  March 28, 2009 at 8:33 pm

    Todd passed out the same day I threw up!! It was during rehearsal that day, and I threw up during the performance that night. The day is burned in my mind forever… 🙂


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