Star Swain's Impromptu National Anthem Performance Goes Viral

Originally published on July 2, 2016 8:52 am
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

G. Star Swain of Tallahassee, Fla., visited Washington, D.C., recently with her family, and they stopped at the Lincoln Memorial.

G. STAR SWAIN: We were having a conversation about the acoustics in the monument and, you know, just how wonderful it would sound, you know, with music. And I was like, I know, right? I should just break out and start singing "The Star-Spangled Banner."

SIMON: The suggestion began as joshing, but her friends and family began to encourage Star Swain. She cleared her throat. She lifted her head and began to sing, little softly at first.

SWAIN: With the longer I sang, of course, I like - I tend to think about what each word means when I'm singing. So, you know, I started, of course, thinking about our country and all the things that that song represents.

SIMON: Maybe you've seen the video her family made. Hundreds of thousands have. Star Swain with their eyes closed, hands clasped and singing her heart out under Abe Lincoln's stony gaze. The other tourists hush, and a crowd begins to gather as her powerful voice rings through the Lincoln Memorial. To say that the video has gone viral doesn't do it justice. Many people have found Star Swain's singing stirring and inspiring, the soul of the Fourth of July.

SWAIN: So many veterans have reached out. We had one young lady say that she had PTSD, and she just really, you know, had been in a state of depression. But when she saw the video, you know, for her that brought a moment of serenity and peace.

SIMON: By day, Star Swain is the assistant principal at the Jefferson County Middle-High School, but she told us she once dreamed of being a professional singer.

SWAIN: As a kid growing up, that was always a dream and always something that me and my family tried to work hard to accomplish, but, you know, so many times it failed. So it's kind of amazing that, you know, at a moment where we weren't trying at all, that's when it happened (laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO, "G. STAR SWAIN SINGS THE NATIONAL ANTHEM LIVE THE LINCOLM MEMORIAL IN WASHINGTON DC 6-16-16)

SWAIN: (Singing) Oh, say, can you see by the dawn's early light what so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming? Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight, over the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming. And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air gave proof through the night that our flag was still there. Oh, say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave over the land of the free and the home of the brave?

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Oh, my gosh.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Yeah. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.