David Shenton says no to playing at the Inauguration, while The Piano Guys provide a laundry list of justifications.
British pianist David Shenton has joined a long list of performers who have turned down an invitation to play at Donald Trump’s upcoming inauguration. Reportedly asked to accompany Sevi Regis, a passionate Trump supporter and singer, Shenton was told that he would not be paid for his services – the honour of the engagement was to have been sufficient. He was also expected to have footed his own travel expenses, both expectations uncannily reminiscent of Trump’s business ethos.
Unsurprisingly, Shenton declined – he will be spending Inauguration week accompanying the politically outspoken UK cabaret artist Melinda Hughes at the Metropolitan Room in New York City. Hughes recently released a video lampooning Trump’s most ridiculous tweets, quoting journalist Graydon Carter: “only in America could a man whose staff reportedly took away his Twitter account because he couldn’t control himself be given the nuclear codes”.
The Piano Guys, who are all devout members of the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints, have notably taken a different stance, provoking widespread criticism by agreeing to perform at the inauguration. The American cello and piano ensemble have defended their decision in a lengthy blog entry posted on their website.
Stressing the apolitical nature of their decision, the group claim not to be celebrating any individual politician or agenda, but “love, joy and hope”. They further insist that the honour of the opportunity remains untarnished by “who was being sworn in”.
“We, too, are distraught and despondent over how divisive this chapter in our nation’s politics has been. We, too, want what’s best for everyone in this country… You know we believe that differences are meant to be celebrated, not calculated. If you know our music, you know that we painstakingly, prayerfully write and perform it with the intention to give it the greatest potential to lift others and break down barriers, not build them.”
The group cites Mother Teresa, African-American trailblazer and contralto Marian Anderson, President Obama, and Jesus as examples of those who have acted “above and beyond petty partisanship and even beyond themselves to bridge over barriers”.
The Piano Guys make up a markedly small group of performers who have agreed to participate in Trump’s inauguration. It has also been noted that along with Jackie Evancho and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir they are currently signed to the Sony label. The majority are supporters of the incoming President, while the rest claim to share the ensemble’s apoliticism. Regardless of the reasons given by performers, critics say that their participation risks normalising a figure that has incited profound hatred and violence.