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At Home Games, The Blues’ Music Men Score Big With Fans

Longtime national anthem singer Charles Glenn, 64, has announced plans to retire at the end of the St. Louis Blues' 2019 season.
St. Louis Blues
Longtime national anthem singer Charles Glenn, 64, has announced plans to retire at the end of the St. Louis Blues' 2019 season.

When the St. Louis Blues take home ice Monday night against the Boston Bruins for Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final, fans will be singing, as they have since the franchise was established in 1967.

With all respect to “Gloria,” this season’s victory anthem, the St. Louis Blues have always embraced music.

The team, after all, was named for the classic melody “The St. Louis Blues,” written by W.C. Handy in 1914. And that winged Blue Note logo — arguably, one of the best logos in all of hockey — symbolizes the city, as well as the team.

Among the team’s most loyal fans are its music men. Charles Glenn, the team’s beloved national anthem singer, is retiring after this season. And organist Jeremy Boyer says playing for the Blues is fulfilling a childhood dream.

Blues fans will miss the unique style of Charles Glenn

Glenn, 64, has been singing the national anthem for the hockey team for 19 years. He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis about seven years ago and is being treated for the disease. But he knows that it can affect his balance and memory.

“I have to focus more on my health,’’ he said. “I have to focus more on pacing myself.’’

Glenn’s rendition of the national anthem is powerful and soulful, yet respectful, according to Blues fans.

“I think he just does so much for the atmosphere of the game. He starts us out on a good foot every game,” said Lori Define, who attended Wednesday night’s Game 2 watch party at Enterprise Center.

"I want a ring. I want this city to have a Cup, and that would be a great memory in itself."

For Glenn, singing with passion is a tribute to his ancestors.

“I’m singing for all my relatives who fought in the world wars, the civil wars, [for] civil rights,’’ he said. “All that combined is put into my lap, and I get to sing with that passion from what they went through with my voice.’’

For playoff games, Glenn will sing with more passion.

“I won’t change the notes or I won’t change the flare or anything like that,’’ he said. “You have the energy of the crowd. You have the intensity of the players right on the same ice with you and with all that combined, it goes into your heart and you put it out into your voice.’’

Glenn hopes his last season will bring the Blues their first Stanley Cup.

“I want a ring. I want this city to have a Cup, and that would be a great memory in itself,’’ he said.

If Blues fan Pete Kassly has his way, that’s exactly how the season will end.

“It would be awesome if the Blues could reward him with a Cup,’’ Kassly said. “I wish him all the best.”

Finding a replacement for Glenn will be a tough task, said Jason Pippi, the team’s director of entertainment.

“To replace that voice and the tradition that comes with it is really not something that we’re looking to do,” Pippi said. “We’re just going to have to go to a new generation of the anthem.”

Glenn will remain involved with the team, Pippi said. He will be the face of Blues charity work involving multiple sclerosis and occasionally will perform for big games against the rival Nashville Predators and Chicago Blackhawks.

Glenn also wants to focus on expanding Voices for the MS Cure, an annual concert that benefits multiple sclerosis research.

Jeremy Boyer plays the organ at a watch party at the Enterprise Center during game two of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Credit Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Public Radio
Jeremy Boyer plays the organ at a watch party last week at the Enterprise Center during Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final between the St. Louis Blues and the Boston Bruins.

Organist Jeremy Boyer respects the Blues’ musical tradition

Even though the Blues were 1,000 miles away playing the Bruins at The Garden in Boston last Wednesday night, organist Jeremy Boyer led the musical cheers during a Game 2 watch party at the Enterprise Center.

While thousands of fans viewed the action on the jumbotron, Boyer pounded out "Let's Go Blues" on the organ adorned in Blues logos, just as he does at every home game — from high above the ice in Section 328.

Boyer, 39, has been playing for the Blues for 12 years. 

“I think it's very cool not only to be the organist for the St. Louis Blues but to be the organist of the only team in all of professional sports that has a musical note as their logo,’’ said Boyer, who started following the team in the late 1980s.

Boyer respects the Blues’ long tradition of incorporating lively organ music into games, dating back to the franchise's beginnings as an NHL expansion team in 1967. The team’s first organist, Norm Kramer, adapted the words of the spiritual “When the Saints Go Marching In’’ to “When the Blues Go Marching In,’’ a team anthem that Boyer still plays after the Blues score a goal. 

In addition to his part-time work with the Blues, Boyer is music director for St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Oakville. He finds some commonalities in the roles: He inspires people emotionally in a positive way, using a musical instrument that is like no other.

“They call the organ the king of instruments and God's instrument because of the level of emotion that it can convey,’’ he said. “And it could do everything from the tiniest little whisper — almost like God whispering to you before Mass in church to a big, exuberant hallelujah.’’

Boyer grew up in Potosi, Missouri, about an hour south of St. Louis. He played sports and went to church a lot, he said. He was also in band and choir at school. When he was 12, he taught himself to play the organ, with his mother’s help.

“I would say most of the time I was practicing church music,’’ Boyer said. “I loved to be able to play the music that I heard in church on Sundays, and I loved mimicking Ernie Hayes when he was playing at Blues and Cardinals games.’’

Hayes, who died in 2012, was the organist for both teams at the time. Boyer took sports music lessons from Hayes.

“I'd love to just talk shop with him again,’’ Boyer said. “I learned so much from him. It wasn't just music or just what to do in a game.’’

While earning a bachelor's degree in music at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, Boyer used to play the organ for the baseball team. He took his own keyboard and an amp to games and played from the roof of the press box.

"Whenever it would rain, I would take a trash bag and put it over my keyboard and put my hands under the trashbag so the keyboard wouldn't get wet," Boyer said.

These days, Boyer gets asked a lot about the team’s victory song “Gloria,” which players adopted in January when they began turning around what had been a losing season. Boyer has added the 1982 Laura Branigan pop hit to his victory playlist at the hockey arena but laughs at the thought of playing it in church.

I always say that when I come to Mass I'm going to play ‘Gloria,’ but not that ‘Gloria,’’’ he said.

Boyer, who also plays for the Cardinals after the hockey season ends, wears a Cardinals 2013 National League championship team ring. The Cardinals lost the World Series to the Boston Red Sox that year, and Boyer views this Stanley Cup matchup as a way for St. Louis to get even.

“This year we're gonna get our revenge against Boston by beating them in the Stanley Cup Final,’’ Boyer said.

Follow Mary Delach Leonard on Twitter: @MaryDLeonard

Follow Alex Heuer on Twitter: @alexheuer

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org

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Mary Delach Leonard is a veteran journalist who joined the St. Louis Beacon staff in April 2008 after a 17-year career at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where she was a reporter and an editor in the features section. Her work has been cited for awards by the Missouri Associated Press Managing Editors, the Missouri Press Association and the Illinois Press Association. In 2010, the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis honored her with a Spirit of Justice Award in recognition of her work on the housing crisis. Leonard began her newspaper career at the Belleville News-Democrat after earning a degree in mass communications from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, where she now serves as an adjunct faculty member. She is partial to pomeranians and Cardinals.
Alex is the executive producer of "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.