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Branigan Smith to perform The National Anthem at Boston Red Sox game

mbowen@northstarreporter.com

Over the years, Branigan Smith has been on all sorts of stages, but this Friday, he’ll take on an entirely new venue—Fenway Park.

Smith, a 2023 graduate of North Attleborough High School, will perform the National Anthem at a Boston Red Sox game on May 31. That day is also known as UMass Amherst Day, where Smith is enrolled as a rising sophomore studying electrical engineering and classical vocal performance.

Smith said his voice professor William Hite had sent him the email from the UMass Alumni Association seeking performers for the Red Sox game. He hadn’t performed the National Anthem before, but decided to give it a try, recording an audition video over spring break and submitting it on March 22.

Hite said that he had forwarded the e-mail to a few singers in his studio that he thought were qualified, including Branigan. He added that the NAHS grad has the range to sing the National Anthem, “which isn’t easy by the way.”

“He jumped at the opportunity and rest was up to him,” Hite wrote in an e-mail. “He’s a go-getter and a talented musician. I’m very happy that he’s a member of my studio at UMass.”

Also known as “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the National Anthem was written by Francis Scott Key on Sept. 14, 1814. The song was inspired by a battle during the War of 1812 fought between Great Britain and the America that took place in Baltimore, Maryland, at Fort McHenry that Key had witnessed.

Smith said that he made some minor changes to the music, and was careful not to go “too far” with it.

“I’ve seen a lot of people sing this at sports games, seen clips of those that went too far and I very much did not want to be them,” Smith said.

In the days following his video audition, Smith heard no response and assumed that he had not been chosen. But one day, decided to check the Spam folder on his e-mail, where he saw the response from the alumni association that he was in the running for the top spot.

“I thought I had been ghosted, I thought I didn’t get it,” he said. “I now check it (the Spam folder) much more regularly.”

Rachel Spates, president of the UMass Amherst Alumni Association, said the organization was proud to have Branigan representing UMass along with 2,000 UMass Amherst alumni fans. 

“This is a year of celebration,” said Spates in a statement. Not only is the UMass Amherst Alumni Association proudly celebrating its 150th anniversary, but this is also the 10th time we have hosted an event at Fenway with our alumni.

On April 23, Smith learned that he would indeed be chosen to perform at the game. Speaking in late May, he described the feeling as “pretty surreal,” and that it hasn’t quite sunk in how many people he will be performing before at the stadium. At full capacity, Fenway Park seats 37,755 people.

Smith added that this upcoming crowd doesn’t compare to anything he has done in the past, that he’s done choir performances at Symphony Hall in Boston before a few hundred, though in those situations he wasn’t alone.

“It’s hard to quantify that number of people in your head,” he said of the Red Sox game. “I was excited immediately, and I didn’t have much time to focus in the midst of academics. I’ve become less anxious and more happy about it.”

When asked why he wanted to do this, Smith said that his mother taught him not to run from opportunities. He said this would be a great experience to be in front of so many people, and he should at least audition. He added that he does get nervous, but it’s never impeded him doing from a show.

Smith has been part of the musical and theater world since elementary school, when he played in the Martin School Music Makers. He’s also been part of performing choirs and done theater.

In the days leading up to the big show, Smith said he has been practicing in his room again and again and has it memorized. When asked what the anthem means to him, Smith said that in the context of the writing, it’s an important piece for a country that at the time was just getting its start.

“Now it’s an important symbol for those who want to come to America and connect to what this country represents,” he said.

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