Barnes sets tone before Redhawks sporting events (4/2/09)

CVU’s star spangled singer moving on to college in fall

April 2, 2009

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent

For these past four winters, one of the highlights at Champlain Valley Union High basketball and hockey games has come after this announcement on the public address system: “And now, please stand as Ali Barnes sings the national anthem.”


    Observer photo by Ben Sarle
Ali Barnes sings the national anthem before a Champlain Valley Union High boys basketball game in February.

Next winter, Barnes will be gone, attending St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y.

The CVU senior from Charlotte, who says she started singing and talking at about the same time, began her national anthem gigs her freshman year when, “I asked if they needed someone to sing for some events.

“They were happy to have me do it and then kept asking me to come back,” Barnes said.

So for as many as 30 or more games per season, Barnes has loyally, expertly and without accompaniment sung a difficult vocal piece, often before packed gymnasiums and rinks.

It is an anthem that has caused some of the biggest stars in the music world to stumble.

Why, Barnes was asked, can this anthem be so difficult to sing?

“It is very hard to find the right key,” she replied. “The range of the song is so different.”

She agreed that singing the song often does help. Barnes also pointed out that she prefers to sing the anthem a cappella, which leaves her free to find her own key.

“With a band, you can’t choose,” she said.

Barnes says she began singing in public while in fifth grade.

One of her first performances, she recalled, came after the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, when she sang “The Star Spangled Banner” at school on that heart-wrenching day.

While Barnes does vocal warm-up routines prior to some public performances, she says she does not do them before singing the anthem at games.

“I just wing it and hope it sounds good,” she said with a smile.

CVU game attendees would agree that her anthems sound not only good, but very good indeed.

But in recitals she does go through warm-up procedures that were given to her by her voice teacher, Shyla Nelson of Charlotte.

Barnes is no one-hit wonder, as they say in the music trade. In fact, she is more than a singer. She also writes some of her own material.

As part of her CVU graduation challenge, Barnes has recorded a CD, singing songs for which she has written music and lyrics.

“They are blues-jazz pieces,” she said, adding that the project has been in the works since last June.

Pianist Peter Craig, a recent University of Vermont graduate, has been working with her on the CD.

Barnes said the CD needs only an appropriate cover and duplication. She says they will be ready for the Burlington marathon next month, where she has been invited to sing the national anthem and will have the CDs for sale.

Proceeds from the CD sales will be donated to a charitable organization established to relieve world hunger.

More information on the CDs can be obtained by calling Barnes at her home, 425-2905.

At St. Lawrence this fall, Barnes will be majoring in business management and the performing arts. Perhaps the CD project will gain her some advance credits in both fields.