For Memorial Day, The Battle Hymn of the Republic

Mark Steyn wrote yesterday (actually, it’s an excerpt from his book A Song For the Season) about “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” its history and its unique connection with Memorial Day. Which reminded me of a post I did in 2007. My youngest daughter, eleven years old at the time, participated in a little kids’ choir drawn from all of the elementary schools in our school district, which performed a concert along with choirs from the four high schools in the district. The finale was “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” which I chanced to record on my digital camera.

I was moved by the performance–and impressed by the fact that a public school district in the North would be so openly patriotic–and posted it here. The recording isn’t great, it has been transposed into different formats a couple of times and uploaded and downloaded. At this point you could say it is a battered old video. But the irresistible power of the song shines through. It is striking, too, that no one involved in the performance except the director is more than 18 years old. They gave the first verse to the little kids, and then the older kids chimed in. I wish I had kept the camera running to give a better sense of the uproar from the crowd of relatives and townspeople when the performance was over.

The video turned out to be popular. Someone kept the audio, replaced most of the video with patriotic and religious images, and posted it on YouTube. In that form, circulating widely via email, it got a very large number of views. One day a retired serviceman called me to ask permission to show the video at a reunion of his military unit. I said Yes, of course, but was a little bewildered. “Don’t you know?” he asked. “It’s all over the internet!”

So here it is again. I hope you enjoy it. I agree with Mark Steyn that it captures the spirit of Memorial Day better than any other song.

While I’m at it, here is one more, just for fun. These district-wide choir concerts consist mostly of serious music, but they do some lighter stuff too, especially on the songs the younger kids participate in. This one is actually from the 2008 concert. It illustrates how transgressive my school district is; the song is “I Know the Lord Will Make a Way.” You can probably spot my daughter in the second row from the top:

Time marches on. My daughter will be a senior next year; she tried out for the choir that performs this concert and made it. So I will get to attend one more of these rather wonderful concerts.

UPDATE: OK, sorry, I didn’t realize I made the video “private” when I uploaded it years ago. It’s fixed now and should play fine.


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