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Ending on the right note

Charles Glenn will retire from singing the anthem at the conclusion of the season

by Chris Pinkert / St. Louis Blues

Much like the players, Charles Glenn has a gameday routine that is the same every time.

Around 3 p.m. he gets ready by putting on his gameday suit. He makes himself a hot tea for the road and leaves his Maryland Heights home around 5 p.m., taking the side streets all the way downtown because he wouldn't dare risk getting stuck in rush hour traffic on the interstate. When he arrives at Enterprise Center, the 64-year-old goes straight to the tunnel that leads to the ice, where he warms up his voice with 20 minutes of vocal exercises.

"When I hear all the music pumping and everything pregame, that's when I get in the zone," Glenn told stlouisblues.com "I'm standing in the tunnel and I have my head down because I'm focusing on what I have to do, because I take it very serious. I say a prayer, I focus on my high notes and my low notes and everything in between, and I walk out on the ice and I sing.

"And then it's done."

This is a routine Glenn has performed for 19 years now, but it's also one that he won't be doing much longer. Exactly when he stops will depend on the Blues and when their season ends - perhaps in late April but he would prefer in mid-June - but whenever it is done, so too will be Glenn.

"I have multiple sclerosis, and I've had it for seven years now, going on eight," Glenn told stlouisblues.com. "It affects how you think, how your body moves, how your brain connects to your body and your memorization. It gets harder and harder. I could do this for another five or six years probably, but there are things I have to do. I don't know when this disease progresses fast - so far, it hasn't. But I do notice it's just a twinge harder than before. To be on the up-and-up, I want to be fair with the Blues as well as myself. I'm going to give the best performance I have at each game, and I want to be right in doing it."

Video: VAN@STL: Glenn sings final regular-season anthem

John Kelly, who has called Blues games for 17 years, says home games at Enterprise Center won't be the same without Glenn.

"I'm lucky enough to see every anthem in every arena, and I think Charles is one of the very best. His rendition of our anthem is fantastic," Kelly said. "The most important thing, though, when you compare anthems is the energy - how does the crowd react? I think when Charles does the anthem, he does it from the heart. When he's done, our building is electric.

"When he takes his final bow, I think our fans will certainly recognize what a great job he did."

Leaving isn't going to be easy for Glenn. He was born to do this.

His mother was an opera singer, and she raised him with the hope that he would go to New York to study Broadway. It didn't happen that way, though.

"I didn't want to do that," Glenn recalled, laughing. "I got into rock 'n roll. I wanted to be in a hair band. My mom influenced me to keep singing and she gave me some pointers but never pushed me - she'd say 'it's your voice, I can't help you with it. What works for me may not work for you.' But she did give me one pointer I always remembered: in order to be a great vocalist, you have to experience extreme happiness and extreme sadness, there's no in-between. It's like Billy Joel says: 'sadness or euphoria.' And that's the truth, because that gets into the soul. I never wanted an audience to think I'm just singing a song, I want them to join in with me and feel the presence I'm trying to give."

Over the course of his career in and around music, Glenn has opened for Smokey Robinson, Huey Lewis and the News, Meatloaf and one of his favorite bands - Earth, Wind and Fire. For awhile, he was a member of the Grammy-winning group, The Fifth Dimension, but through it all, one of the things he says he will cherish most is being the anthem singer for the St. Louis Blues.

"I've loved it, and I love the fans. They're not just fans, they're family," Glenn said. "People come up to me at clothing stores or the grocery store and they say 'Hey, you're the guy that sings for the Blues!' or 'Can I get a selfie?' I'm not going to turn that down. I met an athlete one time that I always admired and I said 'Hey' and he shrugged me off. I wasn't a fan of his anymore… I can't turn people away. This (has been) more than singing the anthem, you know. It's representing the organization."

Glenn will continue to perform at events and weddings around town with his band, The Charles Glenn Group. He will also get to spend more time supporting his wife, Nikki, in her busy career as an accomplished concert violinist who has played with Johnny Matthis, the Black Eyed Peas and even appeared on St. Louis rapper Murphy Lee's first album. He will prioritize spending time with his daughter, Elizabeth - who once worked on Blue Crew - and seeing his two grandchildren, who have become "Blues fanatics," he says. He still hasn't told them that their 'Papa' won't be singing the anthem next season - he can't figure out how to break the news to them without breaking their hearts.

But there's another project that's close to Glenn's heart that he must focus on, and that's growing Voices for the Cure, his annual charitable concert that puts undiscovered musicians on stage to perform at Sheldon Concert Hall. The event, which began five years ago, is intended to raise money to find a cure for multiple sclerosis.

"It's my dream to make Voices of the Cure a national thing," Glenn said. "I want to take it to different cities and discover other singers. The proceeds would go to (benefit) MS. We need to raise more money for that, so that's what I need to focus on now."

As his career of singing the anthem begins to wrap up, Glenn finds himself reflecting on all of the memories over the years. The ones that stand out are the same ones that would stand out to any die-hard Blues fan - the Game 7 win over the Chicago Blackhawks in 2016 that eventually propelled the Blues to the Western Conference Final is a big one. But what he will remember most are the relationships he has built with fans, players, broadcasters and everyone else around the rink.

"The anthem performance is what I'm supposed to do, I never got nervous or had butterflies (about that)," he said. "I did get nervous after singing though, like, what kind of energy did I leave on the ice? Did the players pick it up? If they did, we would be in good shape."

While Glenn will be done as the full-time anthem performer this season, he didn't rule out an occasional appearance in the future if the Blues needed someone in a pinch.

"We've got some fine singers in St. Louis," Glenn said. "You won't be without a good anthem singer. Trust me, you'll be fine."

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