Major League Baseball has called up two big guns of classical music to perform the national anthem at the last games of the World Series: The Kansas City Symphony and homegrown opera star Joyce DiDonato.
For Tuesday’s game, MLB has invited members of the symphony to perform “The Star-Spangled Banner” before the game at Kauffman Stadium. The first pitch is slated for 7:07 p.m.
DiDonato will sing the anthem on Wednesday night if the Royals win and force a Game 7.
The news follows an uneven and much-criticized performance by singer Aaron Lewis on Sunday in San Francisco, for which he apologized later.
“I think it’s a magnificent statement about what Kansas City is and the importance of both major league sports and major league performing arts,” Frank Byrne, Symphony executive director, said on Monday just hours after receiving the invitation.
“We want to do our part to whip up the spirit and the enthusiasm and to cheer them on to victory.”
The musicians will perform in blue Royals gear, just as they did when they filmed a Royals tribute video with the Kansas City Symphony Chorus last week. The groups, directed by Michael Stern wearing a Royals jersey, performed “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
That video has been seen more than 400,000 times on YouTube and other social media outlets since Thursday. Byrne believes that might have influenced MLB’s decision.
“We let them know when the Royals went into the playoffs and headed toward the World Series that we would love to be included,” he said.
It’s certainly a home-field advantage for the orchestra. Members of the brass and percussion sections performed the national anthem at the K in September before a regular-season game against the Texas Rangers.
For the World Series, though, “if they’ll let us we’ll have as many (musicians) as we can possibly get,” said Byrne, “we’re going to let everyone opt in to do this.
“Everybody is caught up in the excitement about the World Series and all of us want to find a way to participate.”
Though musical director Michael Stern is in New York, he will fly back on Tuesday to conduct the performance.
Kathy Hanis, owner of Entertainment Plus, a public relations and talent agency in Westwood, hailed the decision.
She’d pitched the idea of having local entertainers — “X Factor” winner Tate Stevens, jazz singer Ida McBeth and The Elders among them — perform the anthem before each home game during the series.
“I think this is so exciting. I’d call it a home run,” Hanis said of the symphony decision. “It gives me goose bumps just thinking about it.”
The choice is also fitting given the symphony and team’s connections through the Kauffman family, Hanis said.
“If it wasn’t for Muriel and Ewing Kauffman, we would not have Royals baseball nor the unbelievable Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts,” said Hanis.
She hadn’t been happy that MLB chose anthem performers for Kansas City with no direct connections to the town. Country singer Trisha Yearwood and “Home” singer Phillip Phillips performed at Games 1 and 2.
“When you’re doing an event like this you try to identify with the fans and with the people and with the community, and I think some of that has been missing,” said Hanis. “We’re home now and I think everything’s going to fall into place.”
One performer’s name has popped up frequently: Prairie Village native and international opera sensation DiDonato.
Before MLB announced Yearwood and Phillips, a KansasCity.com poll showed that people overwhelmingly wanted to hear DiDonato sing “The Star Spangled Banner” at one of the home games.
The sentiment echoed a petition campaign captured in a Twitter hashtag: #letJoycesing.
Classical performers have been enthusiastically embraced by fans at big sporting events. The most recent case in point: opera star Renee Fleming singing the national anthem at this year’s Super Bowl.
“An opera singer performed the national anthem at a Super Bowl for the first time ever this year,” noted USA Today sports blogger Chris Chase. “After Renee Fleming’s gorgeous rendition brought down the house at MetLife Stadium, we hope it’s not the last time.”
As late as Saturday, DiDonato said she had not heard anything from anyone with MLB about singing at a game.
“But I can say that they can do nothing better than to have the Kansas City Symphony in Game 6 and then Joyce DiDonato in Game 7 when the Royals bring home the trophy,” said Byrne.