The state's official song, "Maryland, My Maryland," is better played than sung. It's a hummer. It's set to "O, Tannenbaum," or "Oh, Christmas Tree," and when the nation hears it on ABC-TV each year, just before the Preakness, millions of people wonder why the band is performing a yuletide carol.
OK, maybe that's a little weird, a little confusing -- especially for the horses.
So, this year, instead of being played by the Baltimore Colts Band, the song will be sung by the 40-member concert choir of Morgan State University. This change is at the insistence of audience-conscious guys at ABC Sports. The network wants the nation to hear the words (just as it wanted us to hear Dixie Carter sing, "My Old Kentucky Home" at the Derby two weeks ago, and wasn't that a remarkable thing to behold?)
The Morgan choir will sing only one verse of "Maryland, My Maryland" -- the third and most innocuous verse. That's a good thing. And I say that because, should the choir sing any more than that, the national television audience might wonder why the Confederate flag isn't being waved in time to the music.
"Maryland, My Maryland" was written during the Civil War by a Southern sympathizer, who implored Marylanders to join Virginia the struggle against "Northern scum." The song refers to Abraham Lincoln as a "despot" and a "tyrant." It suggests Maryland would lose its soul by siding with the North. It's a blood-lusting piece of work written in 1861 by a Maryland native, James Ryder Randall, who must have been in a pretty foul mood -- he was a young teacher in Louisiana -- at the time. The song has been described as "the 'Marseillaise' of the Confederacy" and "a despicable Confederate fight song dripping with hate."
Over the years, there have been attempts to have a new set of lyrics adopted. In the 1980s, a Baltimore County schoolteacher, Jeanne Klender, came up with replacement verses but the General Assembly refused to adopt them.
Truth is, most people aren't even aware of the song's lyrics, never mind its history.
Nathan Carter, director of the Morgan choir, is, however. He understands why someone might wince at the prospect of a choir of black college students singing it. "Oh, I hear what you're saying and where you're coming from," he said yesterday. "But I haven't got into it that way. We see it as a way of paying homage to Maryland and we just let that other part of it go. We've seen the text as only a vehicle for carrying the melody. We've sung it at the inaugurations of the last three governors."
Carter laughed as we went over the archaic lyrics together -- "She is not dead, nor deaf, nor dumb, Huzza! she spurns the Northern scum!" -- and made it clear he wouldn't mind seeing a new set of verses by Preakness 1997. That sounds like a good idea. I'm going to write the new words. Maybe someone will name a horse after me.
Joe Scalia is looking for a few good men for the annual boccie tournament at the St. Anthony Festival in Little Italy on June 9. Fine. But I think we need a few good women. We need to break the gender line and have some. Coed is always more fun.
Anybody wanna play? We're talking money here. The first prize is $500, second prize $250, third prize $150 and fourth prize $100. Entry fee for four-person teams is $60.
This tournament is sanctioned by St. Anthony himself, and I hear that this year there will be an official blessing of the balls. If you want to play, call Joe Scalia, president of the Little Italy Bocce Rollers Association , at 685-7013.... If you want to enter the spaghetti-eating contest, also sanctioned by St. Anthony, stay tuned. Details to follow.
School sleight of hand
If the governor, the state comptroller, the state superintendent of schools and various local elected officials came to your kid's old, rundown, termite-infested elementary school in eastern Baltimore County to announce the granting of $15 million in school construction funds to the county, it might be logical to expect some of that money to come your way.
When Gov. Parris Glendening came to Martin Boulevard Elementary on April 26, amid great fanfare and press coverage, a lot of people got the impression that Martin Boulevard, built in 1927, was destined for complete replacement this coming year. It kind of follows, right?
It turns out that, despite the governor's April media event, the lack of $1.9 million from the state for the Martin Boulevard project forced the County Council to move the whole thing back to the 1998 capital budget. Strikes me as a political boner. Who's running this show?
Springfield Hospital Center in Sykesville celebrates its centennial Sunday with a parade of about 60 entries from Baltimore and the surrounding counties. I'm told we should watch for the entry from nearby Sykesville -- town officials, including Mayor Jonathan S. Herman, will be tossing recycling magnets to spectators from inside a red dump truck, escorted by two police vehicles. If it rains, the town will be represented by a garbage truck.
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Pub Date: 5/17/96