Several years ago, in the early part of 2001, I traveled to Ireland with my family. On our last night there, we visited Bunratty Castle, where they have a touristy-but-cool “medieval banquet” in the great hall of the 500 year old castle. Part of the performance is that they will declare some unsuspecting tourist a Traitor, and throw him in the dungeon. As we entered the banquet, my mother (who’d been there before) secretly nominated my brother as sufficiently “traitorous” for such treatment.

I don’t remember all the specifics, but basically the king came out and declared that there was a traitor in our midst; and then guards came to our table and took my unsuspecting brother away as the king read off a litany of vaguely humorous crimes, (I believe the word “rapscallion” came into play somewhere…). They took him out of the room down a short hallway — where there actually was a small dungeon, consisting of an open doorway and a ten-foot drop (gotta love that medieval security technology!) — and apparently asked him to ham it up a bit and act as though Terrible Things were being done to him.

Finally, the king decides that in the presence of such an august gathering such as this, he would show clemency, and the prisoner was brought back out. But there was one condition — he had to sing for his supper. As he is an American, the song chosen was “The Star Spangled Banner” — the American national anthem.

As a semi-professional singer myself, I can say that “The Star Spangled Banner” is, if you’ve never noticed, quite a hard song to sing well; part of this comes from the fact that the range is very broad, and if you start in the wrong key you will quickly find that you’re not going to reach those high notes. My brother is not the best singer out there, but he can carry a tune fairly well. He was standing in front of a room full of strangers (plus his family), with no accompaniment….

… and he nailed it.

This is not the important part of the story, however.

What really brought the moment home in my memory, is that at this dinner in Ireland, full of tourists and families from all over the place — Irish, Americans, various and sundry Europeans — everyone stood up.

Everyone placed their hand over their heart.

Everybody Sang.

If they didn’t know the words, they faked it.

I don’t really know what to say beyond that. It was a powerful moment. It was a beautiful finale to a perfect trip. We headed home the next morning.

Note: This post was inspired by a post by Baldilocks.

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