WALLINGFORD, Vt. – It took Rowan Williams “three or four” tries to come up with a rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” she was happy with.
A lot of other people were happy with it, too. The 12-year-old from Wallingford won the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ “Red, White and Blue” singing contest at the town, district, and state levels and now will advance to the national competition.
“At first, I was kind of scared, but I ended up enjoying it,” Rowan said.
Rowan’s mother, Lisa Williams, said they heard about the contest from a friend of her husband involved with the Manchester VFW post. She said it seemed like something natural for her daughter to try.
“She sings in church choir, and she’s done Rutland Youth Theater shows since she was 7 or 8,” Williams said. “She just sings all the time.”
Williams said she did not know how many competitors Rowan had.
“Because it was virtual, the kids weren’t all together,” she said. “They recorded themselves. Then the judges listened to all of them. … It’s a very strange year for things like this, but they managed to pull it off.”
Rowan said she had sung “The Star-Spangled Banner” before, and it can be a challenging song to do well. The portion about “rockets’ red glare” is particularly tricky, she said.
“I didn’t know if I was going to go lower or higher, but I found a spot where it was comfortable,” she said. “I faded my voice a little bit. I played with that, getting louder and getting softer.”
Contestants were given some latitude in how to interpret the song, as long at they did not change any lyrics. Rowan said she decided to do a largely straightforward performance without too many vocal flourishes.
“At the end – ‘home of the brave’ – I tried something, and I realized I didn’t like it too much, so I didn’t do it,” she said. “I’ve always loved that song, and I feel like it hits different than any other song ever. I appreciate it.”
The national competition is in August.