What could be more all-American than baseball and ballpark food on a hot summer evening? How about leading the national anthem with a 40-person choir at the start of the game?
That's exactly what I did on a sizzling summer night, along with my fellow singers. Join us at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park (DBAP) in Durham, NC. The heat index hovers near 100F/38C, but no worries....you'll be comfy on your virtual visit.
Downtown Durham is experiencing a renaissance after years of struggle. The Bull's stadium nestles proud between a new performing arts center and modern businesses. Where tobacco once was king, restaurants and retail dot spaces in the renovated American Tobacco Campus, rubbing elbows where the boys of summer play.
An hour before the game, we gather on the upper deck of the DBAP for a sound check. Our voices bounce around in this huge space. We're singing acapella (just voice; no instruments) and from memory.
I see your eyes rolling. Pshaw. Who needs music to sing the national anthem! But it's challenging to sing "Star Spangled Banner" without music because we do a spiffed-up arrangement with multiple harmonies and jazzed rhythms. But you're right---at least we know the words!
Then everyone storms in on beat three, double volume, blasting that final brave chord. Its 6-part harmony strains the high notes of our respective ranges. No pressure!
Genial Announcer asks the fans to stand. Our director gives the starting note, and we softly hum to get the right pitch. He counts the downbeat. We're off!
This is fun! Our voices soaring through the stadium. Goosebumping.
Yippy! Nerves aren't getting in the way of remembering notes. Too soon, we're at that tricky last bar. Yes! Altos carry it to perfection and everyone jumps in on cue. Sopranos crush it with their high B, and our final chord shakes the flagpole. The crowd bursts into applause.
Enjoy a star-spangled listen for yourself.
We’re hot, sweaty, and exhilarated. Fans cheer and cry, "Great job!" as we hustle off the field and back to the picnic area for a group supper.
There's nothing better than eating burgers and hot dogs overlooking right field after singing your heart out. Channeling Scarlett O'Hara, I will count calories, fat and carbs another day!
The sun sets. Soft breezes make a dent in the stifling heat. Spotlights flip on, and nighttime settles over the stadium. The field takes on a magical glow, with players like slick gaming pieces moving in precision around the diamond. Cheers for the home team drift into the night sky. We’re wrapped in happy on this perfect summer night of baseball and singing.
Photos: Cat Michaels, JM, and Durham Bulls Athletic Park
Video: Edenton Street UMC
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