The National Anthem of the United States is neither easy to sing nor play. It’s not easy to sing because of the wide octave range. It’s not easy to play because the melody and bass move all over the place. What motivated me to arrange the American anthem for piano? Fourth of July?
In truth, it was a combination of things. Robert’s landlady left a book on the dining table. While having breakfast one morning, I read the sleeve and became curious why she was reading a book about World War II. She had already read it, but she mentioned that it was written by the husband of the friend who lent me a bicycle a few years ago.
It didn’t take me long to read “No Greater Sacrifice, No Greater Love” because it was well-written and full of moving love letters — real love letters between the author’s father and mother.
As soon as I finished it, I immediately requested to meet the author Walter Ford Carter.
In the meantime, I visited the aircraft carrier USS York Town at Patriot Point, just outside Charleston, South Carolina, a week before we eventually met in Newton Center, Massachusetts.
I had a million questions why an economist would spend years researching a book about his father who died when he was four. His mother wouldn’t speak about it. Some fifty publishers rejected his manuscript. Yet he persisted. He wanted the story to be told.
As I began to research the American national anthem, I suddenly had the urge to arrange it for flute and trombone with chords for an optional piano or guitar or both. I was not only inspired by meeting the author and his wife but also that they play the trombone and the flute, respectively. Needless to say, I got distracted trying to imagine how the two would sound. I guess I’d have to hear it.
As for the piano version, it’s not so easy because both hands are moving all the time with no predictable pattern. I have thus marked optimal fingerings for both hands in the score. Click on the sample score (image) below for the two-page PDF. As usual, I have also indicated chords to allow the more advanced student to improvise on the skeletal structure.
For those readers who are curious about the book by WF Carter, please watch the short movie “Letters” shown at the Normandy Visitor Center, available online. Listen to the haunting cello melody by the composer Michael Bacon. I had the privilege of hearing Mr and Mrs Carter play the duet arranged for trombone and flute yesterday. There are also letters, photos, and links available from the website of No Greater Sacrifice, No Greater Love.