Thirty years ago at Super Bowl XXV in Tampa, Whitney Houston walked onto the field with The Florida Orchestra and made history with an epic rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner. Now with Super Bowl LV back in Tampa – and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the game – the orchestra is celebrating the home team and the anniversary with a tribute video of the anthem.
Dressed in concert tails, Music Director Michael Francis conducts the orchestra in the 1991 version arranged by John Clayton, using the same sheet music that has been stored in TFO’s music library for 30 years. Vocals are by Tampa Bay singer Diane Andrieux, who has been influenced by Whitney Houston in her career.
“We hope this will help inspire you to what will be a stunning victory for Tampa Bay and, of course, the Buccaneers,” Maestro Francis says in the video, as the Bucs prepare to take on the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
About a dozen current TFO musicians were on the field with Houston in 1991. “It was a great moment. It will always be a great moment,” said violinist Linda Hall. “We were the first orchestra to ever perform at the Super Bowl. It has become the gold standard by which all other performances are measured, and that’s something to really be proud of.”
Despite the excitement surrounding Super Bowl games, it is Houston’s work of art that has endured for 30 years (the New York Giants beat the Buffalo Bills 20-19 in 1991, by the way). Set against the backdrop of the Persian Gulf War, Houston’s rendition was later released as a single for charity. It went platinum, hit the top 10 on the Billboard charts and is consistently ranked as the No. 1 version of the national anthem ever recorded.
The Florida Orchestra is one of the few orchestras performing on stage for a live audience during the pandemic. The video was recorded at The Duke Energy Center for the Arts/Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg following CDC guidelines, with musicians wearing masks and appropriately spaced on stage. The singer was positioned in the balcony away from the orchestra.
The Florida Orchestra’s season continues Feb. 13, 2021, with Broadway Sings in the Raymond James Pops series. Other highlights include Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto and Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. Tickets go on sale Wednesday (Feb. 3).