Marcus Hummon, from The Tennessean

Country songwriter Marcus Hummon ’84 is debuting a revised version of his very personal play The Piper in Nashville. It will open this Friday, December 3, in Nashville. From The Tennessean:

Marcus Hummon’s The Piper is more than a piece about prostitutes, music, murder and Irish immigrants in Boston’s Scollay Square. It’s also a work of redemption, trust and surrender — as much for the playwright as anyone else…

[H]e was deeply moved by the 2001 suicide of his friend Stuart Adamson, a Celtic musician, front man of Big Country and Hummon’s partner for musical duo The Raphaels.

“It became a question of, ‘Why didn’t the music help?’ ” Hummon says. “Why didn’t it save him? So I created this brilliant musician for The Piper, a child with polio, who has to come to grips with what music can do in her circumstance. It was a way of answering the question, reigning victorious, redeeming a situation that seems unredeemable.”

And then there was the idea of the girl’s mother, a recovering prostitute attempting a new life by running a boarding house. The truth of her struggle, Hummon says, came from his family’s involvement in Magdalene, a two-year residential program for women coming out of violence, addiction and prostitution. Hummon’s wife Becca Stevens, an Episcopal priest, founded the organization in 1997…

Hummon has written four previous musicals, which have been produced by local and regional theater companies. Because of the personal connections, Hummon is trying again to make The Piper a success:

The Piper has had previous incarnations at the New York Musical Theatre Festival and the Hartt School in Connecticut, but this time’s a little different. He’s added the hand of Michael Aman in writing the musical’s book (or in non-theater terms, its script), realizing, he says, that if it’s going to hit the next level, he’ll have to have some assistance. “I don’t ever want to see these characters not on stage because I wasn’t willing to accept help,” Hummon says. “And he’s been great. Outstanding.”

Hummon is better known for his work in country music. In 2005, Hummon won a Grammy Award as the writer of the Best Country Song, “Bless the Broken Road” by Rascal Flatts (previously released by Melodie Crittenden). Hummon has had three #1 hits on the country charts — “Bless the Broken Road” as well as “Cowboy Take Me Away” by the Dixie Chicks and Sara Evans’s “Born to Fly.” (Hummon also wrote Alabama’s “The Cheap Seats,” which you may have heard between innings at the ballpark).

Far better known as a songwriter than as a performer, Hummon nevertheless has released several solo albums and often appears on stage with the better-known groups for whom he writes. Hummon is also the author of a children’s book — Anytime, Anywhere: A Little Boy’s Prayer, (available from Amazon.com).

Despite his songwriting success, Hummon has apparently never been featured on EphBlog before. Interestingly, Hummon says he began his songwriting career while at Williams, where he majored in political science, played football and volleyball, and ran track. But Hummon is much readier to attribute his songwriting success to the liberal education he received before Williams:

“My parents were both very musical. From a very early age, I was exposed to great art. That and just moving around the world the way we did, certainly affected me. I was going into the 10th grade when we moved to Riyadh in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. A European or American can’t go to secondary education in Arabia unless you’re studying Arabic or at an Islamic school. So I took correspondence courses. It was very lonely, and Riyadh wasn’t a real swingin? town, if you can imagine.”

“My mother had studied art history and music history. She had all these portfolios of the works of Monet, Manet, Rembrandt and so on. Then she had a collection of classical records: Debussy, Chopin and whatever. I had to study a particular painter or a particular symphony. I had to read J.D. Salinger, Fitzgerald, Hemingway from her reading list. It was like a gift she gave me, the gift of art. I always appreciated that.”

The Piper runs through December 12 at Belmont University’s Black Box Theater. Tickets are $20. If you’re in the Nashville area, check it out!

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