Listening Activity #7 - THE Sax Anthem

It's the NFC Championship game on the 22nd Jan 2017 between the Atlanta Falcons and the Green Bay Packers. As traditional before a sporting event in the US, the national anthem was performed. This was a special one with saxophonist Mike Phillips stealing the show before the opening kickoff.

Hear how he uses the blues scale to add a different 'flavour' to the anthem. He doesn't play the anthem in strict time but instead emphasises different parts of the melody by adding extra notes and using particular saxophone techniques. He builds the anthem at 1:07 and uses a technique called circular breathing to extended the note on the word 'free'. One of the reasons Mike Phillips' version is so special is because you can hear that this is his clear interpretation of it. He isn't trying to copy anyone else. He's played with the late great Prince, Stevie Wonder and countless other superstars, but always retains his unique sound and energy. National anthems, hymns or other songs with deep meaning do not have to be played in a solemn or sombre way. By watching this video and others like it, children can begin to understand that any song can be interpreted by a performer in any way, and like Mike Phillips demonstrated, if you can do this well, people will remember it forever.

  • What is the American National anthem called?

  • What was your favourite part of this video?

  • There are many different types of saxophone out there. Which one is this?

  • Can you play your national anthem on your instrument?

  • What does your national anthem mean to you?

  • Watch this version of the national anthem. What differences can you hear?