Among the many premieres the Oratorio Society
of New York has presented in its long career is the "Star Spangled
Banner" in the version that is now sung as the national anthem.
Francis Scott Key wrote the lyrics to the "Star Spangled Banner"
he used a song called "To Anacreon in Heaven" for the melody.
That song (with a refrain about entwining Venus's myrtle and Bacchus'
vine) was written by London composer John Stafford Smith for the
Anacreontic Society, a gentleman's club founded in 1766 for dining and
singing "catches, glees, and songs."
In 1916, President Wilson signed an executive order for the "Star
Spangled Banner" to be played at the military and naval services. In
the years between Key's composition and this order, however, variations on
the words and music had crept in. In response, the U.S. Bureau of
Education commissioned a standardized version. Walter Damrosch (Music
Director of the Oratorio Society of New York and the Symphony Society of
New York), John Philip Sousa (composer), Oscar George Sonneck (director of
the music division at the Library of Congress), William Earhart (author of
books on school music and the 1915-16 president of the Music Supervisors
National Conference), and Arnold J. Gantvoort (a noted university
professor and author of books about music who in 1911 had been appointed
by the Secretary of State to represent the United States at an
international music congress in Rome) worked together to produce it.
The standardized version premiered at an OSNY concert at Carnegie Hall
on December 5, 1917. The concert was dedicated to Belgium and featured the
Symphony Society of New York with Walter Damrosch conducting.
The program consisted of the following:
Walter Damrosch, John Philip Sousa, William J.
Oscar George Sonneck, & Arnold Gantvoort:
"The Star Spangled Banner"
Edward Elgar: Carillon (text by Belgian
poet, Emile Cammaerts)
Gabriel Pierné: The Children's Crusade
Chorus of 200
Public School Children
Congress voted "The Star Spangled Banner" the national anthem
Sept. 11, 1997