— There were a few heartbreaking blunders.
But singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” is never easy.
Renee Tope got through 99 percent of the song beautifully but couldn’t remember the last line, “For the land of the free, and the home of the brave,” and stood near home plate all alone in silence.
It’s because of what it is, what it stands for. Besides musically, it’s a tough song to sing emotionally.
Bradenton’s Tim Dinen on “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Jack Cantwell sang “waving” instead of “hailing” and courageously started over. But he got it wrong again and called it a day.
After the Pittsburgh Pirates’ annual spring training National Anthem tryouts Sunday at McKechnie Field, team officials Nick Long and Nate March said the winners were literally all of the 49 who felt strongly enough about singing the noble and challenging “The Star-Spangled Banner” that they braved a cold and rainy morning and some missteps along the way.
Although 50 has been about right for the number of singers the last few years, usually the weather has been warm and sunny, so Sunday’s turnout was remarkable, March said.
“I’ve been here five years and it still amazes me how much patriotic desire people have,” March said. “Just auditioning the anthem honors our country.”
The Pirates need National Anthem singers for 18 home spring training games and 70 home Marauders games this year. Even previously selected singers must audition every year. Many of the 49 said they were past anthem singers.
Two people auditioned “O Canada” for the Toronto Blue Jays game this spring at McKechnie Field.
No one auditioned “The National Anthem of the Dominican Republic,” which is needed for a World Baseball Classic game at McKechnie on March 8, according to March.
Cantwell, a Bradenton resident, got through the “Oh say can you see,” wonderfully. His voice continued strong on, “By the dawn’s early light.” But, somehow, who knows why, “What so proudly we hailed” came out, “What so proudly we waved.” When he heard himself goof, he stopped.
The crowd of several hundred sympathetic fans in the seats yelled, “Start again!” And he did. But the same thing happened — no hailing, just waving. The crowd sang for him, but he stopped.
Cantwell didn’t let the flub get him down.
“I came to honor America,” he said.
Poor Tope was wrapping up a strong performance, reaching for stars with, “Oh say does that star spangled banner yet wave,” but froze after wave for precious seconds that seemed like hours.
“I just forgot it,” Tope said of the last line.
Some beautiful auditions
The Manatee High School Chamber Singers performed a deeply moving anthem rendition according to many gathered at the two-hour audition.
Their leader, Manatee music teacher Tommy Jomisko, auditioned solo and based on the applause he received, may have set the bar impossibly high for everyone else, including his own teen singers.
“Tommy has sung many times in the past for us,” March said. “His choir’s audition leaves no doubt he can transfer his talent to his singers.”
The crowd clapped excitedly for the poised Daniela Morales, 11, of Venice, the soulful Morgan Bryant and little Lauren Nock.
Hunter Gabbard, 10, of Parrish, had a twang that gave his anthem an appealing country flair.
Bradenton’s Tim Dinen should have been a Las Vegas lounge singer like his idol, Frank Sinatra. He did a classy job on the anthem.
“It’s because of what it is, what it stands for,” Dinen said when asked what makes singing the anthem a challenge. “Besides musically, it’s a tough song to sing emotionally.”
The auditions will be evaluated over the next several weeks, and winners will receive a congratulations email, Long said.