Thursday, July 4, 2013

David Archuleta Retrospective Series Part Seventeen: The Star Spangled Banner/God Bless America

by Pamela Pike and Rosanne Simunovic

Pamela Pike’s Recollections

In the year of 1812, an attempt to take Baltimore the British attacked Fort McHenry, which protected the harbor.  After witnessing the bombardment, a young lawyer, Francis Scott Key wrote a poem from which the lyrics came for The Star Spangled Banner. 

The song is a notoriously difficult one to sing. Thousands of singers have performed, “The Star Spangled Banner” only one person renditions blows me away and that’s David Archuleta.

For just a moment, let’s consider the musical skills of David Archuleta.

At every sport event a musician is asked to sing the National Anthem or God Bess America and more often than not they ruin it by forgetting lyrics and doing a bad job.  This song is difficult even for the most trained singer as it calls for an enormous vocal range. 

The range of TSSB covers an octave and a fifth.  People tend to want to sing their hearts out without having to stretch to reach the higher notes. The song goes from the lowest extreme of the voice to the highest with an enormous melody.  The outcome is sharp pitchy notes and loud screeches.

David has shown the world how you are supposed to sing this song! It is usually performed a cappella with no accompaniment which hinders a singer to manage a pitch.  Very few people have perfect pitch except for David Archuleta which allows him to start in the right key.

Singing the anthem takes more than vocals and courage it takes focus.  Usually you have a great deal going on around you, fireworks and flyovers and stadium acoustics. Frank Sinatra once said the anthem was “a terrible piece of music.”

The key to David’s success is his sincerity, he doesn’t make the song about him, he shows some modesty, hits all the notes, thanks everyone and then walks away. He nails it every time!

The one rendition that I hear often from people is Whitney Houston’s at Super Bowl XXV in January 1991, many people find that most memorable, and as good as it may have been she lip-synched the performance.    

David may change his renditions somewhat but always renders the integrity of the song from where it belongs, directly from his heart and soul.  He always instills great pride with his every performance.

Kate Smith (May 1, 1907 – June 17, 1986) was an American Singer, an Alto, best known for her rendition of Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America” which became her signature song. It is an American patriotic song written by Irving Berlin in 1918 and revised by him in 1938. Irving Berlin donated all royalties from the song to the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts ….he often said it was the most important song he ever wrote.

A far as I am concerned there are only two people that really know how to sing this song.   One was Kate Smith who passed away in 1979 and the ever present awe-inspiring David Archuleta.

David’s voice is glorious and he sings with such power and conviction, and over the last several years has given us rousing renditions and absolutely stunning performances with goose pimple effects.

David’s powerful voice echoes throughout stadiums and arenas.  He is always concerned with the words to his songs, and his simple but deeply moving words has taken on added meaning for all of us because of the way David sings them.

His dynamic voice carries his passion with great enthusiasm and his performances are so smooth and charismatic you are rendered speechless.

Rosanne Simunovic's Recollections

I honestly cannot comprehend how David continues to deliver meticulous, clean, pitch-perfect, LIVE performances time after time after time.

During this version of the Star Spangled Banner, he vocalizes this extremely intricate melody with musical precision, adding his subtle but clean soulful inflections to create one of the best performances of the American National Anthem I have ever heard.

The melodic range of this song is vast, tickling the lower range while challenging the singer to sustain powerful, upper-range vocals in last two-thirds of this song.

David, wisely, uses this opportunity to further sustain his extremely confident and technically secure upper range by changing the melody subtly to add increased drama and dignity to this signature anthem. 
And it works, for during these special glorious moments, the crowd erupts and the fireworks explode!  There is moment after moment after moment during this song that only David and his sublime vocal gift can deliver. 

If there is any doubt why technical study is so important for the longevity and success of a singer's career, this video pretty much eliminates the last residue of denial. Ha!  The whole purpose to becoming a great singer is to achieve a level of significance and longevity that can only be achieved through the perfect combination of technical and artistic skills.

David understands this and his stellar performance of "The Star Spangled Banner" is testament to this.

This statement is reinforced through his beautiful performance of "God Bless America", as featured in Videos #2 and #3 - the former at the tender age of 12 and the second as an adolescent in 2011.

Age is irrelevant here - David has a musical gift that has always been mature beyond his years. He is a true vocal prodigy and always envisions melodic entities that are absolute genius to the ear.

I love how he starts slowly and reverently during the opening strains of this number. By doing so, he reinforces the spiritual basis for this national treasure of a song.

However, David is an exceptionally expressive singer and, as he did during his performance of "The Star Spangled Banner", delivers a very nuanced, highly dynamic rendering of this hymn.

As the song moves along, his voice becomes more resonant, more passionate but still so resplendent with head voice. Because of this, he easily taps into exposing that pure, translucent head voice at the end of this song without a waver.  This is incredibly difficult to do after such an energetic and powerful performance. The control that David exhibits is absolutely remarkable.

I loved how he stretches the vowels in some of the words, to emphasize the meaning and heighten the expressive elements.  David also intelligently shapes his phrases so well - such a beautiful ebb and flow, exquisite highs and lows.

And, the arrangement is so gorgeous and inspired. I believe there are three key changes within this number and it adds so much dimension and power to the final product. But, without David's stellar technique, work ethic and artistic vision, the arrangement could never have risen to such extraordinary heights.

Bravo David! 

Rosanne Simunovic
Grandmother to the best four grandchildren in the Universe because they are mine and I said so! Ha!

1 comment:

  1. Aww...thank you so much Pam and Roseann for the most beautiful description of what we hear each and everytime we hear David sing. His voice and heart (which combine so beautifully in everything he sings) defies description to the novice. We don't know why....we just know that we are....transported to a happy place each and every time he uses his gift and shares with us.
    It is certainly highlighted each and every time that he sings these difficult patriotic songs.

    Thank you so much for explaining all the intricacies and technicalities of what he must do to create such masterpieces. He truly is a vocal genius....and vocal gymnast!

    Never stop writing ladies! I am continually moved by the beautiful way that you paint us a picture through the power of your words. I look forward to reading everything that you write!