OHS alums perform on national stage

Three OHS alumnae recently had the opportunity of a lifetime.

As members of Missouri State’s top choir Chorale, Shannon McFarland, Courtney Grigg, and Hannah Martin got to sing at President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

The group was invited by Missouri Senator Roy Blunt (chair of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies) on Oct. 7. “(Chorale) practices about two blocks from my house, so it was easy to find them,” the senator stated in his speech. He was “pleased that they (were) there.”

Seated right above and behind the ceremony, Chorale performed “Now We Belong,” in which the text was commissioned from Michael Dennis Browne and the musical composition commissioned from John Wykoff. At a very controversial moment in United States’ history, the song emphasized the country’s immigrant background and called for love.

“We were the first group to ever perform this piece, and I think the text carries with it a wonderful message for anyone in our country, even before the, somewhat surprising, results of the election.” Grigg said. She emphasized that even though Blunt’s invitation was accepted before the results of the election were concluded, the group still encountered a lot of resentment. She added, “Despite this, we as performers felt that the text, set so expertly by John Wykoff, proclaimed a wonderful message of strength and unity.”

McFarland commented that it was good to have support from her alma mater at this time. “… the choir received quite a bit of backlash from the inauguration performance, so it was nice to have some familiar faces on my side.”

In addition to singing at the inauguration ceremony, Chorale members split off to visit some of the landmarks unique to the capitol. The group also received a tour of the U.S. Capitol Building from Frank Larkin, the United States Sergeant in Arms. While it was not invited to the Inauguration Ball, Dr. Cameron LaBarr (Chorale director) organized a black-tie dinner at Jaleo, a Spanish restaurant.

Chorale also performed at the National Presbyterian Church and the rotunda of the capitol. Singing at the church was the most impactful part of the trip for multiple members. “That concert was by far the most moving choral experience I have ever been a part of,” McFarland said. “It’s amazing how singing in a group with other people who love music as much as you do creates a collective soul that you are able to express with. You cannot find that with anything else.”

Overall, this trip was emotional for many members, bringing the group closer together. “In college, it’s very easy to get all wrapped up in the mechanics and technique of all of the difficult music that you’re singing, but this trip brought me back to high school in the best way…” Grigg said. She emphasized that choir trips, especially this one, have a great way of unifying the group. “…under the special circumstances, I think we all became much better performers, both individually and as a group.”

Keep up with Missouri State University’s Choirs:
Facebook: Missouri State University Choral Studies
Instagram: @msuchoirs
Twitter: @MSU_Choirs