"Freshman year, and I get to sing in the 58th Presidential Inauguration."
Parker Payne plays piano. Parker Payne also performed at the Presidential Inauguration on January 20 as a college freshman.
On October 7, 2016, news sources announced that the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies had selected the Missouri State University Chorale to perform at the 2017 Presidential Inauguration. United States Senator Roy Blunt from Missouri was the chairman of that committee, and after working with Dr. Cameron LaBarr, the Director of Choral Studies at MSU, as well as University President Clif Smart, Senator Blunt chose the MSU Chorale as one of the signature presentations for the inauguration ceremony.
Fresh U caught up with the multi-talented Parker Payne in order to learn more about his experience performing at the Inauguration. He decided to attend MSU as a Piano Performance major so he could continue to study under his piano teacher, Dr. Hey-Jung Hong. A native of Springfield, Missouri, Parker's accolades in piano performance include playing the keyboard for the national tour of Wicked in Springfield, MO; accompanying auditions and performances at local community theaters; and serving as the accompanist for the Missouri State University Chorale.
"Back in February of last year, I met with Dr. LaBarr and we discussed the possibility of me accompanying choirs. Brian Gibson, a former chorale tenor and accompanist graduated, so [LaBarr] needed a tenor and an accompanist. It turned out to be one of the best choices I have made, staying with my piano teacher and going to MSU."
Even though Parker is the MSU Chorale's accompanist, he performed in the Inauguration Ceremony as a singer. The Chorale prepared for their performance for months, went on a tour in Arkansas the week before the Inauguration, and hosted a send-off concert on January 14. After arriving in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, January 18, the Chorale participated in some sightseeing before their rehearsal on Thursday. At their rehearsal, the group was introduced to the platform and view they would have during the ceremony. When asked about the view he saw during the Presidential Inauguration, Parker noted:
"The view was truly breathtaking. Towards the front of the reflection pool and onto the mall, there were thousands of people, all in front of us. Of course Obama’s inaugurations were a little different in regards to attendance,* but it was still a really amazing sight from our seats."
Parker also stated that one of the most surreal moments of the trip was getting to spend time with Senator Blunt. Both Parker and the Senator tweeted about the occasion.
As far as the actual music for their performance, the Chorale selected the piece "Now We Belong" for the ceremony. You can read the lyrics to the piece here. Parker commented on the music choice by stating:
"Our piece and the text itself really connects to everyone who listens to it. 'Here are the voices of every creature.' The first seven words speak to everyone. The piece goes on a journey through time, describing the rivers and trees and the sacred stones of our great nation, and comes to the cities that we have developed. But one of the main messages of this work...is also the title... it's a very powerful statement. We are all one people and we all share this world and we all must 'feed longing and feed love.'"
You can watch a video of the performance here. You'll notice that the members of the Chorale are all wearing a matching hat and scarf combo -- you can actually buy your own "Bear Wear" beanie on the MSU bookstore's website.
When asked what it felt like to sing for a contentious President, Parker replied,
"We really had to put politics aside and sing to inspire the nation. It was very hard when we were waiting to sing. When Hillary and Bill entered, they sat down and hundreds of people began to chant “lock her up.” That was a very emotional moment and some tears were shed... But when it came time to perform, our four minutes went by so fast but we knew we had accomplished what we wanted and we knew people listened."
Even though Parker put his politics aside for the actual performance, perhaps he let his opinions show a little too much during President Trump's speech. He found this amusing picture through the CNN website:
This past semester's experience certainly set a high bar for the remaining seven semesters of Parker's college career. What an honor for the Missouri State University Chorale to have been selected to perform at the 2017 Inauguration ceremony, and what a once in a lifetime opportunity Parker experienced. There's no doubt that this college freshman will achieve great things, so in the words of the Chorale's piece "Now We Belong":
Keep faith, keep watch, take heart, take courage, guard mind, guard spirit, feed love, feed longing.
Keep feeding love, Parker.
*Editor's note: You can read about the Inauguration attendance disputes here.
Lead Image Credit: Parker Payne