O Say Can You Hear? A History and Performance of The National Anthem


Wed Jun 14 2023 at 07:30 pm to 08:30 pm


Historical Society of Pennsylvania | Philadelphia, PA

Local choirs will share the Star Spangled Banner's evolution in style and meaning over 200 years, with commentary from author Mark Clague.
About this Event

Francis Scott Key’s signature work, the Star Spangled Banner, has lived through many uses and performances. Join us on Flag Day, as the the voices of the Historic African Episcopal Church of Saint Thomas Gospel Choir and the Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields singers perform compositional and lyrical versions of the national anthem. Music historian Mark Clague, author of O Say Can You Hear: A Cultural Biography of “The Star-Spangled Banner”, will frame each piece with notes about the historical context and evolution in style and meaning over two centuries.

The program will delve into the origins of both the lyrics and the music, explore alternative verses and translations, and examine the song's utilization in sports, times of war, and political protests. At this interactive event, hear various renditions of the anthem and discover the influences and adaptations that have shaped this iconic piece of American music.

Donated to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in 1876, a manuscript of The Star Spangled Banner, handwritten by Francis Scott Key, will be on view.

Speaker's Bios:

Mark Clague, Ph.D. serves as Professor of Musicology, Arts Leadership, and American Culture at the University of Michigan, where he is Associate Dean of Collaborations and Partnerships as well as Editor-in-Chief of The George and Ira Gershwin Critical Edition. His research focuses on the social power of music in American life. His book O Say Can You Hear: A Cultural Biography of “The Star-Spangled Banner” has been enthusiastically reviewed by The New York Times, Washington Post, the Economist, and others. He posts to social media as @usmusicscholar and shares additional anthem commentary and resources—for K-12 educators, in particular—at starspangledmusic.org.

Walt Blocker attended Westminster Choir College of Princeton, NJ and the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. He has a bachelor’s degree in Vocal Music Performance with an emphasis in Opera and Church Music. Blocker has performed in numerous operas and stage plays all over the world. He also regularly writes music with several of the National Music Conventions, the Washington National Cathedral and the Philly Pops Orchestra. Blocker continues to flourish and thrive as the CoMinister of Music and the Director of the St Thomas Gospel Choir of the African Episcopal Church of St Thomas for 35 years.

Tyrone Whiting serves as the Director of Music & Arts at Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, where he oversees all music and arts ministries, outreach, and education. Winner of multiple prizes, organist, pianist, and conductor, Whiting graduated from the Royal College of Music (RCM) as a scholar from the Postgraduate Diploma in Performance Science course. He has performed at venues across the UK, Europe, and the USA including Westminster Abbey and the Royal Albert Hall.

Event Photos

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, founded in 1824, is one of the nation’s largest archives of historical documents. We are proud to serve as Philadelphia’s Library of American History, with over 21 million manuscripts, books, and graphic images encompassing centuries of US history. Through educator workshops, research opportunities, public programs, and lectures throughout the year, we strive to make history relevant and exhilarating to all. For more information, visit hsp.org.


Where is it happening?

Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia, United States

Event Location & Nearby Stays:


USD 15.00 to USD 20.00

Historical Society of Pennsylvania

Host or Publisher Historical Society of Pennsylvania

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