Mark Whatley, associate professor of music and coordinator of vocal studies, performed the Belgian National Anthem last weekend during all three days of the Davis Cup. Hosted in Belmont University’s Curb Event Center, Whatley took the floor before the games began on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Given less than two weeks to learn the song, Whatley was asked to sing the piece in two languages–Dutch and French. Immediately interested (but admittedly a bit nervous), Whatley said he had never heard the song before receiving the invitation and doesn’t speak either language. Though he’s comfortable singing in French from many other performances, prior to learning the anthem, he had never even heard Dutch spoken before.
“Though the song was only a minute and fifteen seconds long, I wanted to be sure all the words were absolutely correct, since I knew there would be Belgians in the audience, on the team and watching at home,” Whatley said. “To be sure it was right, I worked with an expert on the Dutch version of the Belgian anthem who was willing to help me learn to pronounce the words over the phone.”
As a trained classical singer more familiar with singing in operas and recitals, Whatley said performing at a sporting event was a bit out of his comfort zone. “I was very surprised that the Belgium superfans sang and yelled the anthem along with me,” Whatley said. “It actually threw me off my game for a moment! It’s very different than singing in a concert hall, but in the end, that probably was my favorite part–the enthusiasm of the Belgium fans.”
Though the experience was different than his typical performances, as a life-long tennis fan, Whatley said the opportunity to perform the Belgian National Anthem was incredibly meaningful. “Jim Courier, Team USA’s Captain, was a hero of mine as I watched him on the pro tour when I was in high school,” he said. “Just being on the court with those professional tennis players was a real thrill. Too bad they didn’t need an extra hitting partner before the match!”