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Lisa's Web World--CGHS Swing Choir Singing the National Anthem at Wrigley Field

The following article was written by me, and appeared in a special supplement to the Crystal Lake Times on October 9, 1991, celebrating the 30th anniversary of Cary-Grove High School (Cary, Illinois)

It's 1980 at Wrigley
"Oh Oh Say Say Can Can You You See See"
by Lisa Cummings (class of 1981)

May 28, 1980 - "Would any choir members still in the building please report to the choir room?" It was Wednesday, the last day of semester exams, when I heard that announcement over the P.A. system. Although exams were over, many students were still hanging around, cleaning out lockers, saying good-bye to friends, and asking teachers for any hints as to what their final grade would be.

Being a choir member, I decided to answer that intriguing message. A few other students were already in the choir room, and so was our director, Mr. Floor, setting up his tape recording equipment. He explained that we were going to make an audition tape. Throughout the school year, when discussing new activities that the choirs could participate in, we had kicked around the idea of having the Swing Choir sing the National Anthem at a Chicago Cubs game. Since the Swing Choir was going to be in Chicago in two days, and since the Cubs were playing a home game that day, Mr. Floor had decided to act upon the idea.

He called the Chicago Cubs front office, and they had explained that normally, singing at a game required an audition six weeks in advance. However, they said, they would consider us if we could prepare a tape and play it over the phone. That was why we had been summoned to the choir room.

By this time, more choir students had arrived, and we had enough to make a tape. Copies of the music were hastily handed out. We grouped ourselves accordingly--soprano, alto, tenor, bass--and ran through the song a few times. We were ready.

Mr. Floor pressed the buttons on the tape recorder. "Oh say can you see, by the dawn's early light....?"

We finished, and Mr. Floor played it back. Satisfied that it was good, we went to Mr. Ehrensperger's office, where the tape was played over the phone. They absolutely loved it, and agreed to let us sing!

May 30, 1980 - Two days later, Swing Choir members started arriving at the high school bright and early in the morning. Although a big, exciting day was ahead of us, with a Cubs game in the afternoon and a performance for the Rotary Club International Convention in the evening, faces and hearts were sad. One look outside the window told it all: it was raining. Hard. Even as we loaded the bus with garment bags and sound equipment, we couldn't help but feel that our big chance at fame was being washed away.

Our mood on the bus was subdued; the closer we got to Chicago, the more it looked like the weather would not change. When we got to Wrigley Field, our excitement increased somewhat. We were proud to tell people that we were the group that would be singing the National Anthem.

We had arrived well before game time, and this gave us more time to anxiously glance up at the sky. While the rain had stopped for the time being, the sky still remained grey, and we remained doubtful that there would be a game.

Time passed. Spirits lifted as we realized that the weather was at least not getting worse. Suddenly, someone noticed a patch of sunny blue poking through the grey. As the crowds started filling the seats, we watched as clear, sunny sky moved in, pushing the grey away. Someone up there was definitely thinking about us!

By game time, the weather was perfect! We made our way onto the field, and stood waiting near the on-deck circle on the first base side. The Cubs were playing the Philadelphia Phillies, Pete Rose's team at the time. We cheered as the Cubs ran onto the field, and then it was time for us. We arranged ourselves around three microphones near home plate. Jack Brickhouse was up in the booth, announcing us on TV. At home, my mom was sitting poised by the tape recorder (sadly, VCRs were not common back then). Behind us, famous baseball players were taking off their caps to listen to US sing. Jimmy Enright announced us, Mr. Floor blew a pitch on the pitch-pipe, and we did it!

Author's note:
Back at Cary-Grove, our performance was taped directly from the TV using a black & white reel-to-reel videotape machine (high-tech!). I have since obtained a copy, transferred onto VHS. I wish to thank Mr. Dana Floor for providing me with both the photo above and a copy of this videotape! Thank you!

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