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Oh, say, can you sing it? These kids will in D.C.

A Longleaf Elementary choir performs for a Flag Day event today.

By MICHELE MILLER
Published June 14, 2007


NEW PORT RICHEY - "Oh, say, can you see ..."

Sure you know that part, but can you get past the "rockets red glare" and "bombs bursting in air" all the way to the very end?

According to a Harris Interactive survey of 2, 200 adults, that's a problem for two out of three adults who seem to have forgotten how to sing all the words to The Star-Spangled Banner.

Turns out, though, that some Longleaf Elementary students - 25 to be exact - have it down pat. Those kids will belt it out today , decked out in sailor hats and red, white and blue duds at the foot of the Washington Monument. Longleaf's showcase choir, Freedom Review, will be part of a 1, 300-voice group singing the national anthem at this Flag Day event.

The Longleaf choir is one of two from Florida to be invited to this finale of the 2-year-old National Anthem Project, which aims to teach people how to sing all the words of The Star-Spangled Banner.

It's a pretty big deal, said Jim Wanker, music director at Longleaf, adding that those who tune in might just catch his kids on one of the network news programs this evening. "This is the largest ensemble to sing the national anthem."

"It's an opportunity of a lifetime, " said principal Arlene Moreno, who last summer gave her approval and support for this trip that was funded by private donations from the choir's community performances, spaghetti suppers and a golf tournament.

At 10 a.m. Wednesday, the kids in the Freedom Review gathered at the school to get last-minute instructions from Wanker and well-wishes from family members and school staff before setting off for Washington.

Brian Powers, a rising fifth-grader, said he was eager to sing the national anthem in the nation's capital but was really looking forward to his first plane ride.

Then there was the Yankee Doodle Dandy solo he would be singing in another event on Friday at the Lincoln Memorial.

"It's been a lot of work, but it's a lot of fun, " said Brian, 11. "It'll be fun performing for millions of people."

The five-day trip promises to be packed with a variety of events including a 4 a.m. photo and film shoot today for a commercial for Jeep - one of the National Anthem Project's primary sponsors. Early television viewers might catch that on Good Morning America today.

The group will also open for the Drum Corps International Competition at the Navy Coliseum in Annapolis, Md.

The trip promises to be educational as well for the youngsters who will also tour national monuments and the Smithsonian Institute.

Sean Krause, 10, will see Washington, D.C., for the first time and said he's excited about seeing the White House, the monuments, and also perhaps, his grandfather's grave when the group tours Arlington Cemetery.

Donald Krause, Sr. was a major in the Army who died in 1995, a year before Sean was born.

"I never knew him, " Sean said. "But I'm going to try to find him."

Michele Miller can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6251 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6251. Her e-mail is miller@sptimes.com