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The haunting effects of a minor key on the U.S. national anthem

April 28, 2014 | By Abraham | 126 comments

Songwriter Chase Holfelder reinterprets “The Star-Spangled Banner” in a minor key…

126 Comments

    1. A Ward says:

      He’s a Communist, really? Do you even realize the words that you just typed? By you saying that makes you more of a Communist for not allowing a person their 1st Amendment right to Free Speech.

          1. DontFeedtheTrolls says:

            What is funny is that the same guy keeps replying to himself under different names…

          2. random says:

            america accounts for more than just the united states.i believe a total of 36 countries. 24 in north america and 12 in south america. so being if they are american english, statistically, will not be their first language, let alone under the 1st amendment rights

          3. america-defender says:

            random, America is often used just to refer to the USA, especially by people from the USA. I rarely hear people from other countries champion the term America, though this admittedly may be one of those rare instances. Don’t know why you’re bringing English into this (the 1st Amendment doesn’t care what language you use).

        1. Pedant says:

          That’s not how the first amendment works, anyway. It protects you from government censorship, not from members of the public mocking/shaming/shunning you for expressing an unpopular opinion.

        2. Cyril Figgis says:

          dude your comment exists on a thread dedicated to the American National Anthem. Needless to say, the first amendment is pretty relevant here… XD

          1. cliftymike says:

            you sure the thread isn’t dedicated to the effects of singing in minors can have?

          2. Bruce says:

            Cliftymike, singing WHAT in minors? He’s not singing “It’s a small world”!

      1. James says:

        The first amendment only protects against government prosecution for a citizens speech. Not public opinion or controversy unless its aimed at inciting violence.

    2. Muir K says:

      I bet you’re the kind of person who screams about Second Amendment rights, and has no cares or clue about the First unless it pertains to people who think and act exactly as you do. If you truly love this country and want to call it “the land of the free,” you must be willing to accept the expression of viewpoints that are diametrically opposed to yours. You must be willing to accept the right of any American citizen to take a symbol of America–such as its national anthem, and do with it as they will.

      You must even accept the right of its citizens to burn the American flag in protest, if you truly believe in free speech.

      But, I bet you don’t.

      1. Sigh says:

        That, or he’s just trolling. As in, he’s almost guaranteed to be trolling. So please stop feeding the troll.

        1. flag-burner says:

          Flag-burning isn’t illegal in the USA. It _is_ free speech, as it should be. Why should a decorative cloth have special protections?

          1. Patriot says:

            Actually, there is a law against burning the flag in hatred. You may only burn the flag to discard it after it has been torn, tattered or soiled. Burning the American Flag is not a form of free speech since it is against the law to do so.

          2. John says:

            That “decorative cloth” is a symbol of the country and what it stands for. Soldiers have given their lives for that “decorative cloth” so lets not be ignorant and pretend like burning it is competently okay because its not.

    3. Kelli says:

      He’s from North Carolina. Besides, a minor key isn’t anything to worry about. I liked it. I’m able to appreciate it. Just because you don’t like the interpretation doesn’t mean you can say hateful things. It’d be like me saying “Go study music you dumb hick” because honestly, I’m from Missouri and I know people that say stupid things like what you just said.

    4. Also American says:

      You call him a communist for making a beautiful rendition of our National American, and yet you don’t throw an uproar when some “famous singer” botches it entirely at the start of some sports game? You need to sort out your priorities.

      1. Amber says:

        THANK YOU!!!! I think this is an amazing and unique version and would MUCH rather hear a beautiful minor cord than a totally destroyed version by someone who is excused because of their name.

      2. Marie says:

        ::cough::rosanne barr:: cough, gag, burf:: lol. I dont see what is communist about this.. but i also dont necessarily see the “beauty” or whatever in it.. my ear just keeps hearing “flat, sharp, whatever” lol. It just doesnt sound right to me, but it doesnt sound right when idiotic pseudo singers try to “personalize it” either, its a great drinking song just as it is, leave it alone :). And the words, dont ever mess with the words… i will cut someone… heh.

    5. AnotherPintPlz says:

      Fun fact: Sir Francis Scott Key wrote the USA’s national anthem based on the melody of a popular British drinking song known as “The Anacreontic Song.”

      1. Marie says:

        Cool. Except for the exact name of the drinking song, im pretty sure most USAmericans (see how awkward that is, thats why we from the USA generally just say, “Americans” since most of the other nine thousand or whatever countries in the americas have their own distinct names, i dont see the problem..really…) already knew that :)

        1. Marie says:

          no, real Conservatives have become disenchanted with him since he started his land grabbing ways… we dont like that, we like freedom independence for every country. Makes us think of england when people start taking over other peoples countries. Gets our dander up.

    6. russia says:

      No place for communists over here, sorry. By the way, how’s Barack working out for you Americans?

    7. Patriot says:

      Considering you’re an idiot. He is not a communist just by changing the tone of the song. He didn’t change the words. The National Anthem was never set to just one tone. Get a grip

    1. Joe Blow says:

      I agree, blonde! 4 part harmony through the entire piece would have been awesome! I’d rather hear this version at a sporting event than a major key version that goes on for 10 minutes…

  1. Kathy says:

    Truly beautiful and actually something that can be sung easily with this version.
    He should be invited to sing it at a national event.

    1. Colgan says:

      I agree. It could also be very powerful if after a disaster. Having major or minor versions of themes are VERY common with soundtracks where composers can have a theme of a character but make it fit different moods for different themes. Stop reacting to the troll and the “Communist” like. He’s just one of those left wingers who thinks people who disagree with his dogma go around calling everyone “commies” and he’s doing it to push everyone’s buttons to hating the same people he hates

      1. sheree says:

        hmm…in all my experiences with people who call other people “commies”, 10 times out of 10 it’s typically a conservative doing the name-calling. Why don’t we just stop labeling each other? It’s the reason our government doesn’t come to any resolutions on issues to begin with.

      2. Homebody says:

        I agree – it sounds so sad sung in the minor key. Beautiful voice, and the minor key makes it a very ‘haunting’ rendition – but I don’t see it as being disrespectful in any way. Certainly much more beautiful than some of the ‘versions’ of our anthem that have been performed before various sporting events – where it often seems the emphasis is on the ‘performance’ rather than the song.

        1. Homebody says:

          I meant, I agreed with Colgan about the minor version creating a different mood (Didn’t realize my comment would show up after sheree’s).

        2. Make It Snappy says:

          It can be sad no matter which key it is sung in, especially when drug out foreverrrrrr for dramatic effect. Pet peeve of my high school music teacher that I happen to concur with, it is not a funeral march, so step it up and make it snappy. That said, this is still a lovely rendition.

  2. The Real United States says:

    Don’t listen to that ‘america’ commenter. Afterall, canada, mexico, and plenty of countries to whom this song is irrelevant are American countries. I, the real United States, think your video is interesting, and applaud the fact that you put this together, it’s nice to hear it outside of a baseball stadium for once. Although the minor key totally makes it sound different, any true citizen of the United States of America knows that the lyrics are from a POEM by Francis Scott Key to begin with, named “Defence of Fort M’Henry.” I’m sure you could sing it in any Francis Scott KEY you want to, or even change the tune altogether if you’re feeling truly creative. Keep it up, and make sure you pay your taxes on time, I need those to feed my poor, hungry masses yearning to breathe free. Also to make sure everyone knows I’m strong and stuff, but it’s not like you can split that difference.
    <3
    The Real United States

    1. america-defender says:

      You’re factually correct, but you don’t seem grounded in reality with how the terms “America” and “American” are typically used.

    2. Bruce says:

      No problem with your comment until you got to the “pay your taxes” part. If you really need the money, try getting the NFL, for example, to start paying federal taxes (they currently are tax exempt)! Seems that at one time their finances needed a boost (legit danger of financially going under) so the Fed. gov’t helped them out then promptly failed to put an ending clause in the assistance. As a result, this multi BILLION dollar enterprise corporately pays NO FEDERAL TAX AT ALL! So, real U.S., get the NFL to feed your poor. After that, make life easier for small businesses (lighten up on the taxes and regulations) so those poor folks can get jobs and feed themselves!

      1. Marie says:

        wheres the dang like button already…Good job Bruce. On the tax thing anyway.. i think we should leave the National Anthem alone though heh.

  3. Michael Stewart says:

    Wanted the harmony to continue at the end, but this was really good. Loved the chord choices in the middle.

    1. Sherri S says:

      I was thinking the same thing. I was waiting for the harmony to come back in and was a little disappointed but it was so pretty that I can’t complain at all.

  4. Faith D. says:

    Reminded me of some of the Christmas anthems, as many of them are written in a minor key. It made the story behind this anthem stand out to me so much more…it was written about a battle where many men lost their lives. Seems some how fitting to sing it in the minor key.
    “America” needs to understand what Communist means. It is not singing our National Anthem in a different key (for that matter, if it were written in C Major and you sang it in F Major, it’s still a key change); if you listen to Beyonce or Adele sing this, they take much greater liberties with the melody. Communism is stripping America’s citizens of their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and making all equal to the detriment of society and any form of capitalism. Are you okay, “America”, with some of the “baser”, pedophylic citizens of our country having the same rights as some of the morally “elite” to enter a school yard full of kids unmonitored? Are you okay with having as much of your hard-earned income as the government deems worthy to be given to someone who is capable of doing work but chooses not to? Does the idea of your food coming from the back of a government-sanctioned delivery truck where everyone, no matter the size of their family, gets the same allotment bother you? Would you want your wife to be told she had to have an abortion done because you weren’t expecting a boy and you are only allowed one male child? I believe you should talk to some citizens from the PR of China or the former Soviet Union about what true communism is before you start using that term as a blanket statement to refer to anyone who has done something you deem unpatriotic. My husband is in the US Military, I was raised and still am very patriotic, but people who blindly cry “America!” without seeing what our nation is becoming and holding fast to what TRUE patriotism is (defending our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness) make me hesitate to profess my own pride in being an American.

    Chase, this was awesome! A great display of talent and artistry with the original score! :)

    1. HistoryBuff says:

      One (not-so) minor thing about your post concerning the Battle of Baltimore and the attack of Fort McHenry.

      Due to the poor accuracy of the British weapons at maximum range, and the limited range of the American guns, very little damage was done on either side before the British ceased their attack on the morning of 14 September due to a lack of ammunition. Thus the naval part of the British invasion of Baltimore had been repulsed. Only one British warship, a bomb vessel, received a direct hit from the fort’s return fire, which wounded one crewman.

      While “the rockets’ red glare” was certainly dazzling to Mr. Key, none found their mark and “many men” did not lose their lives. In fact, in the part of the battle that inspired the anthem, no one died.

    2. Marie says:

      faith… “america” was clearly a liberal agitator, just trying to stir up sentiment against conservatives.

  5. Gary Adams says:

    “America” seems to not now what his “name” stands for, or it’s precepts. I am a retired veteran, a gun owner, a christian, born and raised in America, and I support the Constitution, and it’s amendments. He is simply a troll, and I mean that in it’s clearest meaning.

    This is a wonderful interpretation of the music. I love it and I want to download and keep this song on my playlists. Thank you Chase. You did a marvelous job. I am pretty sure you can tell that what you have done is greatly appreciated by everyone (with one exception of course), but don’t worry. He has a right to be an idiot in America. It’s a shame he doesn’t know that these rights also come with a responsibility. He will never understand that so you can easily ignore his rancid remarks. Once again, thank you for such a marvelous piece.

  6. Scott says:

    As one who has an appreciation of music, I think it is brilliant. I appreciate the minor keying. It would be a fantastic version for Memorial Day Celebrations, or those celebrating our fallen military.

  7. Ugh says:

    The delivery sounded like an angsty rock vocal, and the pitch correction, especially applied heavy-handed on the harmonies, made me cringe. Really distasteful, IMO.

    1. techguypaul says:

      Angsty rock vocal? Yes. Pitch correction? There was no pitch correction. He definitely used a lot of reverb/delay to recreate that big stadium sound you usually hear for this song, which is done really well. Add in some crowd ambiance and a deaf listener would think they’re hearing an actual stadium performance.

    2. sheree says:

      blah, blah, blah. Why can’t people just enjoy the sound of music?….instead of the sound of people griping about every tiny little thing they don’t like about everything?

      1. Bill says:

        Why can’t people just enjoy the sound of music? Because it isn’t genuinely music if it isn’t produced through artistic skill in performance rather than post-performance computer-enhanced manipulation. Without the actual talent to produce a sound in performance, it is simply either noise or dishonesty.

        1. Anonymous says:

          Then how in the world does one explain electronic music? The production of quality electronic music actually takes real skill – the best producers know their music, and can apply it in a medium that is largely regarded as talentless. Yeah, sure, maybe they can’t perform live, or the singers in the music are absolute shit, but the actual production of music takes real talent. Overall, I disagree with the “noise or dishonesty” portion, because as far as I know, any electronic music (or any music now a days) is produced on an electronic device. The great part is that now we have two mediums – live and electronic – that push the boundaries of musical expression in two completely different ways. As both an amateur producer with four and a half years experience and clarinetist (though not a well practiced one) with 9 years experience, I respect the effort to either perform music and create an atmosphere that way, or to sit down at a computer and orchestrate the musical balance that creates songs anywhere from Skrillex to Linkin Park to recordings of the Philharmonic Orchestras from around the world.

    3. Yep says:

      Totally agree. The idea is great. I’m sure it’s possible to do an interesting version of the National anthem in an alternate key, but then he goes and chooses a delivery, arrangement, and production style that veers it right alongside some of the cheesiest, tropiest, most over the top music that has ever been made.

      It’s like if you close your eyes, you can see an aging glam rocker swinging his arm with fireworks erupting from the stage every time he hits a chord.

      Needless to say, this isn’t to my taste.

      1. Sentiment Is The Logic of The Masses says:

        It suited his cause for the singer to be gay. Therefor, the singer is gay.

    1. Didn'thear says:

      I didn’t hear anyone saying gay guys CAN’T sing. Gay people are just like straight people….

  8. D-Cap says:

    This is a very simple and elegant way of making the national anthem more interesting. I think including this version in a gritty (futuristic dystopia?) movie about America would be profound–if it was done right.

  9. David says:

    First, I’m a 24-year veteran, so spare me the commie, or America hater, or whatever title you choose. As someone who HATES it when performers destroy the National Anthem with their “artistic” take on it, I thought this rendition was interesting and well done…but only as an academic/musical endeavor. I still wouldn’t want to hear it performed this way.

  10. Denise says:

    Having performed this song too many times to count, I could anticipate every note as he was singing it and still had chill bumps throughout the performance. He turned the National Anthem into a question by simply dropping into a minor key. Very eerie and haunting, but beautiful all the same. I wouldn’t want to hear this at a sporting event, but it is a definite reminder of our country’s bloody past and those who fought for our freedom and continue to do so.

  11. Laura says:

    I’ve got chills. I could see this being sung against a disaster video, or or war footage or something of that nature. Or (oh, there go those chills again) in a movie of Farenheit 451, at the end where the people who have run away from society are remembering pieces of books that have been burned. Wonderful rendition, well done.

    My husband is military, so is my father, both my grandfathers, my uncle, etc etc etc. Several of them are also amateur musicians who would appreciate this for its beauty. I’m the only one in my family who went to school for music, and this nearly made me weep. If memory serves, it’s not even strictly minor, it’s almost modal, reminds me a bit of Greensleeves.

    1. Renaye Brown says:

      I think you’re right. I learned a small bit of music theory way back in the day and I thought this might have been something other than a minor key – and very effective at conveying the paradoxical nature or war.

  12. Spock says:

    Re: the US Constitution. Captain Kirk said it best, “.. these words … were not written only for the Yangs, but for the Komms as well… They must apply to everyone or they apply to no one.”
    I remember reading elsewhere “…all men (humans) were created equal, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. ” These words are not JUST for Americans, but for ALL humans, everywhere. These are the ideals, said in many ways, before and after, by many people, written so eloquently in the United States Declaration of Independence.

  13. Sharon says:

    I liked the version of this song. All of you that are complaining, please remember that Francis Scott Key wrote the poem while being held captive on a British ship. This is how he knew how the battle was going. It was set to music some time later to a popular British song written by John Stafford Smith. I believe it’s the words that are important.

  14. Trevor says:

    Dudley Buck (1839-1909) did it first in 1868 in his work Concert Variations on ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’, Op.23 (fourth variation).

  15. Becky says:

    I thought it was strikingly beautiful, very well done, and the near-echo sound only improved it – like singing in a large restroom with nothing soft to absorb the sound, such as the furniture in the room where this was performed. The young man is quite talented, not only with his voice, but also with his technical skills, putting the video together.

    I was somewhere in the vicinity of Chase’s age when I enlisted in 1974 in the US Navy at 19. Every time I participated in a flag-raising/lowering ceremony, hearing the Star Spangled Banner played, it brought tears of love and pride to my eyes, and I thought my heart would burst. I love the fact that this young man thought enough of his country to do this very tasteful, non-theatrical version, and the minor key only makes it more poignant than ever. I have “minored” some songs to see what effect it would have on them, and it’s amazing how different it makes me feel. I really love this!

    Good work, Chase Holfelder! May God bless you!

  16. MusicPhD says:

    Putting something into a minor key takes no creativity. It is not a reinterpretation. At most it’s a “cover.” Beautiful voice, though.

  17. Charles says:

    Fascinating arrangement. I agree, for a military funeral this minor mode could establish an air of solemnity. But I would love to hear him do it again – this time on the last note, do a sub-tonic 6 & 7 walk up to a piccardy third.

  18. Jest says:

    Gave me goosebumps. I listened more than once, just for the people who didn’t care for it. (:

  19. Poqui says:

    Considering the poem “The Defense of Fort M’Henry” was not written to music and that the current music attached to it is a former pub song that calls for virgins to give up their virginity I would say, well-done.

  20. Brian says:

    I think it is totally cool and it’s even easier to sing in that key. I’ve listened to it several times and would like to hear this more often.

  21. Bill says:

    Yikes ! I’m so jealous of your command of your voice – and your ability to mix and dub in your harmonies ! I see you wear a wedding band —- did your mom and/or dad have to give their permission for what looks like a 15 year old to wed ? – lol
    Seriously, very nice work !!! I hope to hear more from you in the future. Bill

  22. Joan says:

    While not a classical version of the song, it was exceptionally well done and his voice gave me shivers. I would love to hear him do the original version at say the Superbowl or some other highly publicized sporting event. Nicely done!

  23. Issy says:

    This is beautiful. Anyone who thinks this is un-American doesn’t understand music or patriotism.

  24. delana qeseth says:

    This is nice, but hardly ground-breaking. It’s been done with background scores for countless films for nearly eighty years now.

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