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News / Clark County News

Vancouver police officer has an arresting voice

By Laura McVicker
Published: December 25, 2009, 12:00am
2 Photos
Cpl. Rey Reynolds sings the National Anthem at Vancouver's Memorial Day ceremony this year. Photo Gallery

Real warriors sing. That’s why Rey Reynolds, a seasoned police officer, always belts his heart out in his rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

On this October morning, with a soulful voice that crescendoes on high notes, Reynolds is riding a wave of emotion.

At first, his voice stays low and deliberate: he’s preparing his audience for what’s to come.

Swiftly, he sings louder and louder. His last note rings out for a few seconds. Then silence.

A round of applause comes, followed by a standing ovation from the 600 or so people who came out to this morning’s event at the Hilton Vancouver Washington.

The song hits home for a stranger with tears in his eyes who approaches Reynolds. “Thank you for that song,” he says, mentioning that his two sons are serving in Iraq. “You have no idea what it means to me.”

Reynolds, a Vancouver police corporal, was singing at the Clark County Mayors’ Prayer Breakfast, one of many public events he appears at throughout the year. For the past six years, Reynolds has performed at police funerals, Veterans Day ceremonies and high school sporting events.

It’s a role unconventional for a police officer, Reynolds acknowledges.

But he does it for a reason: He doesn’t want to be seen as an officer just out to make arrests or far removed from the community he serves.

“It puts the department in a good light and we need that,” Reynolds said. “A police officer who sings is kind of a novel idea.”

Vancouver police Lt. John Chapman, Reynolds’ supervisor, calls his singing a dignified representation of the department.

“He touches a lot of different groups and shows them that police aren’t just out to catch the bad guy,” Chapman said.

It also helps that he can wow his audience, although the singing was slow in coming. Reynolds didn’t perform at public events prior to the last few years and has no formal training. He briefly tried church choir, but quit.

“I didn’t blend in,” he said with a deep chuckle. “I’m not a choir person.”

Reynolds’ debut came in 2003, after an impromptu tryout in the office of former Mountain View High School assistant principal Steve Marshall, who was looking for someone to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at a basketball game. Reynolds offered to give it a shot. The principal laughed in surprise. So Reynolds just started singing.

“He said, ‘You never told me you could sing like that,’” Reynolds said.

At the basketball game, Mike Meloy, the other assistant principal of Mountain View at the time, remembers a packed crowd erupting into applause and a standing ovation afterward.

“We left that first performance with goose bumps running up and down our arms and backs,” Meloy said.

Since then, Reynolds’ singing has taken off, mainly by word of mouth. He started fielding calls from military and business groups, asking him to perform at various events.

To prepare for performances, Reynolds does his research. “For me, singing becomes part of you — you’re amplifying your emotions,” he said. “It’s not just singing a bunch of notes.”

He now knows the writer of “Amazing Grace” was a slave trader transformed by a newfound faith in God.

And he knows Francis Scott Key wrote the words in 1814 to the national anthem after seeing the American flag still waving through the smoke during battle at Fort McHenry.

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“When I sing it, I see the battle,” he said. “I sing through it.”

Once behind the podium, Reynolds closes his eyes and says a quick prayer. What happens next, he can’t quite put his finger on.

“When I open my eyes, I’m transformed,” he said.

Laura McVicker: 360-735-4516 or laura.mcvicker@columbian.com.