“For the final time, please welcome Charles Glenn as he sings our national anthem,” the announcer said ahead of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals Sunday at Enterprise Center.
Glenn responded the introduction by blowing a kiss and using his hand to extend it to the entire circumference of the rink. The crowd erupted with applause as if they were cheering for a team hero. In his own way, he has become one, since signing on as their home game anthem singer back in 2000.
After he sings, he usually poses for selfies and signs autographs while maneuvering through Enterprise Center.
“This whole thing is mind-boggling,” Glenn said. “ I am an anthem singer, I’m not a player.”
The St. Louis native prayed to become a famous musician and able to sing before crowds of thousands of people every night. “They say if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans,” Glenn said. God actually made Glenn laugh with the way that his prayer was answered.
“Here I am, a brother, out here singing for the hockey team,” Glenn said, laughing all over again. “And every time I sing for the Blues, there are 16,000-17,000 people – every time, and I get nothing but love. It’s a moment of ecstasy I can’t describe. It’s been the same feeling I got the first time, for 19 years.”
The St. Louis Blues stood a fighting chance to have Glenn’s final performance after 19 seasons as resident national anthem-singer take place the same night that the hockey team became NHL champions for the first time ever.
“I didn’t know it at the time, but as I was singing in the stadium, there were thousands and thousands more people singing along with me on Market Street,” Glenn said. “That blew my mind.”
He took a bit more vocal liberties than usual. Not too much, but just enough for a memorable finale to his tenure as the anthem singer. He held on to free for what seemed like forever in the second to the last line of the song – but without forsaking clarity, tone or pitch.
The extra bit of drama came, in part, thanks to his wife, Nikki Glenn. They usually go to the Tony Awards in New York as a vacation.
“She said, ‘This is the Stanley Cup,” Glenn said. “‘We will just have to bring the Tonys to us.’”
The St. Louis Blues posted his final anthem performance on their official Facebook page – and in three days it received more than a quarter-million views.
The video is captioned with a simple, yet profoundly touching note.
“Charles Glenn, Thank you for everything.”
It was a fitting finale for what an entire city hoped would be the start of a fairytale ending for the St. Louis – a Stanley Cup win at home after decades of playoff disappointments.
In April, Glenn announced that due to his battle with multiple sclerosis after 19 years as anthem singer for The St. Louis Blues, this year would be his last.
“In December of last year, things started changing for me,” Glenn said. “Not that I was getting any sicker, but it just became harder for me to move around a big arena like that.”
He knew for sure when he was walking from Enterprise Center to his car and his leg started dragging to the point where it felt like it would give way that his time had come.
“As I was walking, I thought, ‘Okay, it’s time to give someone else a chance.’”
With his announcement, he said that he had hoped to end his run in mid-June – which meant that the Blues would have to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.
According to Glenn, the team said they wanted to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals and promised themselves that they would work towards it in honor of Glenn’s last season.
Even though the Boston Bruins made sure that a Stanley Cup at home wasn’t meant to be, what a ride this has been for Charles Glenn.
‘Thank God for State Farm’
A connection with a St. Louis Blues insider opened the door for Glenn to be one of 35 lucky singers up for a chance to be the resident anthem singer for St. Louis Blues home games. As they were lined up on the ice, the individual conducting the audition asked the people who knew the Canadian national anthem to raise their hands. About 12 of the 35 raised their hands. Everyone else was thanked for their time and excused.
Glenn was among the remaining 12. He was hired for a gig with State Farm Insurance to perform during a conference in Quebec a few years earlier. One of the songs he had to learn was the Canadian national anthem.
“Thank God for State Farm,” Glenn said, laughing once again. “Isn’t it funny how God works. I never thought I would sing that song again. And yet out of that song came this experience.”
That’s not to say that the rest of the audition back in 2000 went off without a hitch. By the time it was his turn to sing, the battery of the cordless microphone the auditioning singers used went dead halfway through his song. He kept singing. They changed the battery. He asked if he needed to start again. They said, “that will be all, thanks.” He assumed, that was the end of the line for him.
It was just the beginning of a 19-year ride that he wouldn’t trade for the world. “It was something that I did not expect, but it was such a wonderful thing,” Glenn said.
Now 64, he has been a professional musician since he was 18 years old. He performed in St. Louis and spent several years performing in California and even enjoyed a stint in the popular singing group, the 5th Dimension. Since 2003, he has been performing as the leader of his own band, The Charles Glenn Group, and has every intention to continue. They perform at weddings and corporate events. He’s also a part of the Central Baptist Church music ministry as a percussionist.
“I’m going to keep on singing and performing until God tells me to stop,” said. Glenn.
As he passes the torch, his advice for the St. Louis Blues’ next anthem singer is simple.
“Learn the song,” Glenn said. “And sing it like your last performance in life every time you step on that ice.”