Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Alaska State Song - Messing Up A Classic?

[Update April 9:  SB 43 was passed out of House Judiciary after a long and emotional hearing.]

I've done several posts already on SB 43 which would officially add the second verse to the Alaska Flag Song.  In two hearings before the House State Affairs committee, the opposition to the bill has been about the meaning of Native and why it is necessary to identify a specific people in the song,  about the sanctity of history and culture which shouldn't be changed, and questions about the implications of the copyright of the song. 

An email alerted me to  long time Fairbanks NewsMiner reporter Dermot Cole's piece opposing the second verse based on aesthetic grounds: 
The simplicity, originality and imagery of the Alaska flag combine to make Benny Benson’s design a work of art. The same qualities distinguish the poem “Alaska’s Flag,” written by Marie Drake in 1927 and set to music by Elinor Dusenbury in 1938. It was adopted as the Alaska song in 1955.

With all due respect to the late Carol Beery Davis, who wrote  a proposed second verse in 1986, the state song needs an addition about as much as the state flag needs a ninth gold star or “Hamlet” needs an extra act.  [See the rest of the piece]
 Rep. Peggy Wilson did hint at problems with the quality of the verse when she asked how someone would sing it.  Particularly the third line.  And I had some problems with that myself.  

So I do think aesthetics is a reasonable factor to consider here.  But it shouldn't be the only one.  And as good as the first verse is, it isn't Hamlet. The second verse can be seen like a sweater knitted by a favorite aunt.  Some people may think it a bit lumpy, but they don't understand the significance of the pattern she knitted in for you or they don't share your love for her.

Besides, these two verses have been a couple for years.  It just isn't official.  Do they have to have a civil union or can they finally get married?


  1. I suppose it depends on what aesthetics one chooses to adhere themselves too.
    Just a sourdough isn't enough for me.
    And the eight stars of gold suits me just fine.

    The parka my favorite aunt crafted is just wonderful.

    Besides, all the sourdoughs I've met were grumpy and frankly, just sour. And they are known to go crazy about cabin fever time.

    I've always felt marrage or civic union was never intended to begin with.

    I'm awaiting the day when I meet a generational Alaskan who claims that their grandfather or grandmother (snicker) was a sourdough.

  2. Well my grandparent were sourdoughs... and friends of Carol Beery Davis, who would have been able to persuade them both that she was right.

    As someone who has sung the song in a chorus many times (I have the bass part of the UAF music dept. choral arrangment of the chorus embedded in deep body memory) I haven't found the new verse difficult to sing at all. The real problem has been memorizing it, since I memorized the first verse when I was about 7 or 8 years old.


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