If you went to an MA volleyball match over the last few years, the sight of (left to right) Jenn Lively, Dana Jackson and Ally Lively signing the National Anthem was a familiar one. The senior trio made belting out the tune before home matches a tradition. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
November 24, 2013MOULTONBOROUGH – It became a routine, a part of the pregame festivities on a nightly basis.
First came the warm-ups, jumpstarted with a siren. Next was the mix of music, same songs every time out. Then the player and coach introductions, rattled off in order with the rhythmic claps for each participant. Then it was their time.
Seniors Dana Jackson, Ally Lively and Jenn Lively would hear their names called, run across the gymnasium at Moultonborough Academy and grab the microphone. No matter how big or important the match was that particular evening, there was tradition to uphold. The trio had to sing the National Anthem before the contest was officially under way.
"It started my freshman year," said Jackson of the tradition. "I liked to sing but had never sang the anthem before. I think I sang the wrong verse the first time, I was terrified. But I wanted a chance to redeem myself."
When sophomore year rolled around, MA volleyball coach John Garneau learned of the singing prowess his trio possessed. The veteran coach gently persuaded them to perform the anthem, with the twins joining Jackson to kick off the night's festivities.
"Coach heard us sing and he asked us to start doing it," said Jenn Lively. "From there it just became a ritual."
While the three athletes/performers had experience in the musicals at MA, nerves were still very common, especially during those early days as sophomores.
"I was really scared at the beginning," Ally Lively admitted. "But we got better as we got used to performing with chorus and stuff."
The performances reached a crescendo earlier this month, when the trio sang the anthem at the NHIAA Division III state championship match between Nute and Winnisquam at Plymouth State. While the semifinal matches used a recording, the trio stepped in and performed a rousing rendition in front of a packed Foley Gymnasium.
"They're always right on," said Garneau of the trio, who embraced their recently-retired head coach after finishing the song. "They do a terrific job with it. It's a very hard thing to do, as hard as playing a match can be."
Jackson said Garneau has been nothing but supportive of their musical exploits.
"Coach says it's one of the best (anthems) he's heard," the senior libero said.
While nerves were a constant during the early years, senior year was much more relaxing for the girls. Between repetition and having each other there as comfort, they say they improved just about every time they sang.
"Before this year I think one of us would always mess up at some point," said Jackson with a laugh. "But we've gotten better every year. It's gotten to the point now where if I sing it by myself, it just sounds weird. Like, what is that?"
The girls say their version is very traditional, with traditional harmonies. But despite a tough warm-up before important matches, they always calm themselves before performing.
"Our warmups are so intense that it can be tough to gather ourselves," explained Jenn Lively. "But we focus pretty well for that short amount of time then it's right back into volleyball mode."
While the girls are close friends already, it's undeniable that the bond the three share has strengthened from partaking in the tradition.
"It's something that the three of us share with each other," Ally Lively said. "We all share that skill and it's something that we'll definitely look back at and remember fondly."
What the future holds for the anthem next year at MA remains a mystery.
"My mom said we should record a version for next year," said Jackson. "We might have to look into that."