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Charleston poet laureate writes updated 'My Country Tis of Thee' lyrics for inauguration

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Charleston's poet laureate Marcus Amaker wrote revised lyrics to "My Country Tis of Thee" for the Washionton National Opera Concert for Inauguration Day. File/Provided

Marcus Amaker, Charleston's poet laureate, has penned new lyrics to a classic patriotic ballad that was performed virtually for the Washington National Opera's Inauguration Day Concert. 

Amaker's updated lyrics to "My Country Tis of Thee" were presented by the Washington National Opera in a video format. The song was composed by Shawn E. Okpebholo for mezzo-soprano J'Nai Bridges, bass-baritone Ryan McKinny and pianist Rob Ainsley. 

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"Marcus Amaker reimagined the text to this anthem, reflecting the past, present and future of this country. Grateful!" posted Okpebholo on social media. 

Amaker's updated lyrics include: "Land where our mothers died, land of a strong divide, our voices amplified, let freedom ring." 

The concert also included performances of "Lift Every Voice and Sing," and "God Bless America," among other songs. 

Amaker is not the only Charleston creative to be featured in an Inauguration Day concert. Ranky Tanky, the Lowcountry's Grammy Award-winning Gullah band, performed last night as part of the Biden-Harris official inaugural events.

That virtual showcase, "We Are the One," was hosted by the Presidential Inaugural Committee to honor and celebrate "all within the Black Community and African Diaspora, featuring powerful speakers, inspiring stories and entertaining performances." 

The 59th annual John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts' Inauguration Day Concert, featuring Amaker's lyrics, can be streamed at www.kennedy-center.org/video/digital-stage/opera/2021/nso-inauguration-concert.

Reach Kalyn Oyer at 843-371-4469. Follow her on Twitter @sound_wavves.

Kalyn Oyer is a Charleston native who covers arts & entertainment and food & bev for The Post and Courier. She's a music festival & concert photographer and used to write about music for the Charleston City Paper, among other publications.