The next generation carries on the family song

Emmitt B. Feldner • forThe Review

EDITOR’S NOTE: Our columnist told us he’s got nothing this week – to which we replied what makes this week any different – so this previous column will fill this space this week.

I got to see my oldest grandson sing the family song last week – along with 40-plus other third graders.

Unlike his grandfather when I was in the third grade, he didn’t learn all four verses – just the first verse that everyone knows.

The occasion was Ty’s spring school concert, which we made sure to be there for.

The theme of the concert was Freedom and, for the finale, all the students from the school sang the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

And yes, that is my family’s song – although we never collected any royalties on it over the years.

But we can say that we are descended from Francis Scott Key, who wrote the words to our National Anthem, on my mother’s side.

Half of her mother’s family were Keys, who traced their ancestry back to the Maryland attorney who watched the bombardment of Baltimore’s Fort McHenry from a British ship during the War of 1812 and was inspired to write a poem he called “Defence of Fort M’Henry.”

He set the words to the tune of an old British drinking song, “To Anacreon in Heaven” and the rest, as they say, is history.

We should probably be glad we’re not descended from the anonymous composer of “To Anacreon in Heaven,” although over the years various family members have probably sung more than a few drinking songs – although not that one.

It has resulted in at least one member of every generation in my mother’s family bearing the name Francis or Frances as either a first or middle name.

My mother was Sarah Frances, my sister is Amelia Frances, her daughter is Sarah France, our daughter was Devon Frances, and so on and so forth.

However, it was just by coincidence that I had a third-grader teacher who decided to teach our class all four of the verses of the “Star-Spangled Banner” - and all right, how many of you out there knew that the “Star-Spangled Banner” has four verses?

We got to sing all four verses as the finale of the grade school concert that year – then we all promptly forgot the words to the second, third and fourth verses, which probably none of us have ever sung since.

I mean seriously, how many people would wait around for a ball game to start until the crowd or the guest singer sang all four verses of the National Anthem?

I do remember that one of the subsequent verses begins “O, thus be it e’er, where free men shall” something-something, but that’s about all I can dredge up from more than half a century ago.

Ty’s music teacher apparently decided to give them a break and limit it just to the well-known first verse.

Being an elementary school music teacher, she knew it would be coming at the end of a long concert and getting a stage full of kids from first through fourth grade to stand still for four full verses would border on the impossible, so she cut it off at one verse.

When Ty told us earlier that he would be singing the “Star-Spangled Banner” at his concert, we had to inform him of his heritage and connection with the song.

Whether it made any impression on him or not, I can’t say – but at least it didn’t get him in trouble like it did his father when he was in third grade.

The subject of Francis Scott Key and the “Star-Spangled Banner” apparently had come up in his class one day and he came home and told his mother about it.

Terry proceeded to tell him that he was descended from Francis Scott Key, and Ethan went to school the next day and told his teacher all about it.

For some reason, though, she didn’t believe him and threatened to send him to the principal’s office if he kept telling tales like that.

We had to send a note to school with him the next day assuring his teacher that Ethan was telling the truth and he is descended from Francis Scott Key.

It just made us wonder what kind of other tales he was telling at school that his teacher refused to believe that he was related to Francis Scott Key.

It’s probably a good thing we didn’t tell him he’s also descended from Josiah Bartlett of New Hampshire, a signer of the Declaration of Independence – although there have been no subsequent children in any generations who got stuck with the name of Josiah.

It does make me and the rest of my family related to a fictional television president of the United States – Jed Bartlet of the series “The West Wing.”

Fortunately, that show came on long after Ethan was through the third grade, so he didn’t have to risk another trip to the principal’s office for telling another whopper.

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