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In Print: On News Stands Now

THE VOICE THAT FILLED THE STADIUM

by Tumbleweed Smith

Most of his classmates at Arlington Heights High School in Fort Worth knew that Reid Bunger was going to one day be a big opera star. About the only person who didn't know that was Reid Bunger. Maybe he thought it was a goal to high to reach. I went to high school with Reid and had a good visit with him at a recent class reunion. I hadn't seen him since graduation.

If you were in front of him during singing at our high school assemblies, you knew that Reid was behind you. His big booming voice rattled the windows and shook the walls of the auditorium.

Reid, retired now and living in Duncanville, had a distinguished opera career. He sang 158 roles in 5 languages, appearing at famous opera houses in Moscow, Sydney, Tokyo and other cities around the world. He lived in Vienna twenty years and performed with the state opera there. He sang with the three tenors: Placido Domingo, Jose Carrera and Luciano Pavarotti. He sang in East Germany at the first performance of Parsifal since World War Two.

He showed me a large book from the Opera House in Vienna that listed all the performers who had sung there and the roles they played. Reid had the longest list.

One day a friend in Duncanville suggested Reid audition to sing the national anthem at a Ranger game. Reid said he didn't know he could do that. "I learned that any American citizen could go the ballpark and audition to sing the Star Spangled Banner, provided they can actually do it. Of course there is no accompaniment, it has to be done a capella."

Reid went to the ballpark where about fifty people were seated behind home plate. "Those of us trying out stood on home plate and sang with a microphone. It was a little difficult because all these reverbs were coming back at me from the speakers. Well, I sang the national anthem with no frills, just straight, like I think it should be sung. They told me they would let me know if they wanted me to sing."

A couple of weeks later, Reid got the call from the ballpark to be at a certain place on a certain night. "A young girl gave me a microphone, I went to the field and at her signal I started to sing. No microphone. No batteries in it. My mind went awfully fast. I'm a patriot. I'm singing my national anthem. And I ain't gonna stop for nobody. I'm gonna keep going. By the time I finished, 43,000 people in that stadium were quiet after hearing me sing. I walked all the way up to the press box. A guy there told me he couldn't believe his ears when he heard me."

The ballpark called Reid a couple of weeks later and wanted him to sing again. The caller told him he could have as many tickets as he wanted. For his second appearance at the ballpark, he brought 65 of his closest friends with him. This time, the microphone had batteries.

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