President-elect Donald Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration will feature a performance by the Choir of the National Cathedral in Washington.
The Episcopal Church is a liberal denomination that has long supported racial equality and women’s and LGBT rights. The cathedral is a center for social justice and two years ago hosted communal prayers for Muslims.
Trump’s religious base is composed primarily of white Roman Catholics and evangelicals.
The inauguration and its related events are distinct from a Jan. 21 interfaith prayer service in which Cathedral staff will take part, along with members of other faiths and Christian denominations.
Performers announced for the inauguration include vocalist Jackie Evancho, many of the Rockettes and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (minus one soprano).
A spokesman for the National Cathedral (officially the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul) said the Dean of the Cathedral, the Very Reverend Randolph Marshall Hollerith, made the decision for the Choir of Men, Boys and Girls to perform.
In a statement, the cathedral’s chief communications officer, Kevin Eckstrom, said, “We do not pray or sing to bless a political ideology or partisan agenda. From its earliest days, the Cathedral was conceived as a ‘great church for national purposes,’ a place that could assist the nation in marking significant moments in our national life. For decades, the Cathedral choirs have participated in those moments, particularly when they involve the office of the president of the United States.
“The choir was invited to join the inaugural ceremonies as one of three choirs who were chosen to help celebrate the peaceful transfer of power and to honor the office of the president. [The Dean] accepted this invitation as part of our role to serve as a spiritual home for the nation.”
The performance, he said, is optional for members of the choir, and most will participate. The spokesman did not respond to inquiries about the number of singers who will take part, whether they will be paid or the repertoire.
Anne LeVeque, 57, of the Diocese of Washington, took issue with the decision, saying the prayer service was the proper forum for praying for the country.
“We do this every four years, regardless of who the president is,” she said. “Celebrating the inauguration goes beyond that. In a very real sense, it’s honoring the person who is being inaugurated.”
Missouri State University’s Chorale also reportedly will sing at the inauguration. Members of the 50-member choir, led by Cameron Labarr, will perform an original song titled “Now We Belong.”