Today is [Last Sunday was] the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, observed by the Catholic Church since 1914; I learned about this in an excellent column by Janice Andersen in our church newsletter, which can be read here:  Janice Andersen: An ever wider “we“.  A separate, younger observance is the United Nations World Refugee Day.  We are a nation of immigrants; one need not look further than the daily news to see that this is a critical and current issue.


“Back in the day”, well, actually two weeks ago, I had planned a post looking forward after the 20 year anniversary of 9-11-01.  As it happens, several days previous to 9-11-21 this site was hacked by someone, somewhere, who didn’t interfere with my site; rather rendered my own site inaccessible to me.  This has happened once before, about two years ago.  In this business, even small fry like me don’t escape the marauders.

September 8 I did my own retrospective on the last 20 years.  It’s “Snake bit“, if you wish.

There’s been a lot under the bridge in even the few days since 9-11-2021.  Just a few comments on this, the first day of the rest of our lives.

It does not seem a good strategy to try to go forward by becoming immobilized by what happened in the past.

A twin occurrence seems particularly instructive to me as I write.

For many years I’ve been a subscriber to our magnificent Minnesota Orchestra.

Our opening Minnesota Orchestra concert in 2001 happened to be September 21.  This was 10 days after 9-11-01.   Maestro Eije Oue (Japanese) raised his baton, leading the Orchestra in a rousing rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.  It was magnificent, and it was moving.  Unforgettable.  (I looked to see if this was on YouTube.  No luck.  My recollection was it was not on the printed program.)

About the same exact time, 9-20-2001, maestro Kurt Masur (German) led the New York Philharmonic similarly.  You can watch it here.  It seems much more subdued than the Minneapolis version I remember on near the same day.  The same notes; different tone.)

Twenty years later, we were in the same Minneapolis hall as in 2001, and Maestro Osmo Vanska (native of Finland), in his final year of a long tenure with the Minnesota Orchestra, also raised his baton, once again a rousing rendition of our national anthem.  This was in the printed program “John Stafford Smith/arr. Stanislaw Skrowacewski.  The Star-Spangled Banner“.  2021 matched the 2001 memory for me.

Skrowacewski was the revered long-time, 1960-79, music director of the Minnesota orchestra.  (Here’s a version from You Tube featuring the Coast Guard Band.)  September 23, 2021, was the first full concert of the full Minnesota Orchestra since the Pandemic brought our lives to a halt in March of 2020.  It was an evening to celebrate a return.

In my opinion:

In 2001, 9-11 was a huge shock to the national psyche.  In my opinion, we lost an opportunity in how we responded to 9-11 and this has been a huge millstone around our collective necks ever since.  Masur’s Star Spangled banner came across as solemn and depressed compared to the Oue’s rendition I heard almost the same night in 2001.  The NY Phil reading of our national anthem seemed to accurately reflect our national attitude going forward.

In 2021, sitting near where I sat in 2001, I was hearing a determined and hopeful national anthem from an Orchestra which had recovered from a near two year lockout in mid-decade.  It felt good to be listening.  I remembered the 2001 anthem in Mpls similarly.

Last Thursday the Orchestra was also aware of and pointing out other issues we need to confront.  To get in the hall, we needed to provide proof of being vaccinated, and masks were mandatory.  There were no protests.  The hall was filled to capacity.

But there was more: in the program itself, which included Max Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy and Beethoven’s 5th, was an 8 minute piece by composer Jessie Montgomery, simply entitled “Banner”.   Here is how the program booklet described the piece Minnesota Orchestra Sep 23 2021.  Take the time to read the few paragraphs.


I wish everyone could hear the Minnesota Orchestra Star Spangled Banner, both the 2001 and 2021 versions.

I think 9-11-2001 found the U.S. in a “hole” – perceived loss of power and control.  Rather than working towards a rational solution then, our society proceeded to dig the hole deeper as the generation went on, as witnessed by endless and fruitless war.

Twenty years after “9-11”, our new 9-11 day will forever be January 6, 2021.  This was the day our own chickens came home to roost.  Our ‘terrorists’ now are home grown.  As we have come to learn, simply by living our lives, we have been driven apart into warring tribes, even within our own families and associates.

If there is to be hope forthcoming, and I believe there is reason for hope, it has to come from each and every individual citizen doing his or her part to carry us forward.

If our function is to be casual spectators, only expected to be critics, we will get the inevitable unpleasant results.  To win takes all of us.

I hope you agree.

POSTNOTE: Early in September an intriguing Opinion Quiz came via the New York Times: “If America had six Parties, Which would you belong to?”  It’s an easy opinion quiz – 20 questions, maybe 5 minutes, instant and personal assessment.  If you can access the quiz, I highly recommend it.

We are a nation of 330,000,000 people, and too often it seems we seem to have the idea that the only opinion that matters is our own personal opinion…and a society cannot function, much less an entire nation or even a family, where “my way or the highway” seems a prevalent ideology.  Even worse is the forced choice between two extreme options: us or them.  We are at that point in this divided society.  Our all too obvious flirtation with the fantasy of an authoritarian dictatorship is an ill wind, blowing.

1 reply
  1. John Bernard
    John Bernard says:

    Thanks for the thoughts..

    I’ve pretty much always had a love-hate relationship with the Star-Spangled Banner. To my mind, it musically pales in comparison to other national anthems – but we have what we have. .

    It’s really open to personal interpretation as to how it’s played; the speed at which it is played; and the mood of how it’s done.

    Had not listened to your two mentioned interpretations before.

    To my mind, the two most favorite renditions I’ve ever heard of the national anthem were both female pop singers – Whitney Houston’s rendition at the 1991 Super Bowl is a stand out, and (believe it or not) Lady Gaga’s interpretation and presentation at the inauguration of Joe Biden was also awesome. The former is as good audio or visual, but the latter you have to actually see the presentation – particularly considering it occurred just 14 days after the events January 6 at the same Capital.


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