Mo. anthem gets mixed review from lawmakers

A proposal to designate an operatic song by a homegrown talent show winner as Missouri’s official anthem drew mixed reviews Thursday, with one lawmaker questioning whether anyone with a “normal voice” could sing it and another suggesting it needed some fiddle music.

Opera singer Neal E. Boyd, who won an America’s Got Talent contest in 2008, wants lawmakers to make his “Missouri Anthem” the official state anthem. The three-minute song references Missouri’s “courage and strength,” its rivers, eagles, dogwoods and pine trees, and proclaims that “Missouri’s the heart of a grateful nation.”

When Boyd played a recording of it Thursday for the House Tourism and Natural Resources Committee, some lawmakers praised the anthem while others seemed less than impressed by its orchestral and operatic qualities.

“I love the lyrics, but ... I’m thinking, in Missouri, we need a fiddle in the band,” said Rep. Warren Love, R-Osceola, referencing a country music song.

“I’m just thinking the average Missourian like me is not going to get up and jump up and down at that song, I’m sorry,” Love told Boyd. “It’s a little cultured above what a lot of us think and act.”

After Boyd left the room, committee members considered whether to advance the bill. They ultimately decided not to vote on it, meaning it is unlikely to pass before the session ends May 17.

Rep. Ira Anders, D-Independence, said the song seemed difficult for “somebody with a normal voice” to sing.

Committee Chairman Donald Phillips, R-Kimberling City, noted the legislation contained no mention of how to handle any revenues generated by the song or its associated gifts sold in tourist stores, though Boyd had said he wanted the proceeds devoted to education.

“Let’s put this on the back burner for now,” Phillips said.

Missouri already has an official song, the “Missouri Waltz,” which received its designation in 1949. Recent governors have made it a tradition to dance to the “Missouri Waltz” during their inaugural balls.

But Boyd said he could envision the “Missouri Anthem” being sung by choirs, at sporting events, during TV tourism commercials and when the governor enters a room full of people at official events.

Boyd, who grew up in Sikeston, lost a Republican bid last November for a southeast Missouri state House seat to Rep. Steve Hodges, D-East Prairie.

The legislation designating his song as the official state anthem is sponsored by Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, who described Boyd as a family friend. She said the anthem would be a fine addition to Missouri’s lengthy list of official symbols.

“I think it shows we are very cultured in Missouri, and we have a very wide array of music,” Rehder said.

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