87-Year-Old Performing a Concert

Article excerpt

Byline: Sandy Strickland, Staff writer

At 87, Marie Parker would rather be tickling the ivories than sitting in a rocking chair. And you'll find her playing and practicing every chance she gets -- even at midnight.

The Mandarin resident, formerly of Clay County, plays organ, piano and keyboard, and usually performs classical music, hymns or Broadway show tunes.

But in honor of Black History Month, she's tackling some ragtime.

"These aren't sluggish pieces," said Andrew Clarke, organist and choirmaster at Riverside Presbyterian Church. "I think the audience will get a kick out of her."

Clarke has asked Parker to perform at the Wednesday Happening at 12:20 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 18, at the church at Park and Post streets. During the free 25-minute concert, Parker will feature numbers by black composers.

She will open with Let Us Break Bread Together, a traditional spiritual on the organ. Also on the program are Maple Leaf Rag by Scott Joplin, Mood Indigo by Duke Ellington, Juba Dance by Nathaniel Dett and Poor Katie Redd by Eubie Blake.

But the retired church organist can't resist adding a hymn, an arrangement of How Firm a Foundation that Clarke wrote for the organ. Despite her musical experience, Parker has been taking lessons from Clarke for 7 1/2 years.

"He's a very talented person," she said. "I always have fun. I tell everybody he knows how to teach an old lady."

When friends express surprise that she's taking lessons, Parker has a ready response.

"I tell them I'm old but instead of just sitting in the chair and complaining about being old, I prefer to be with somebody who's knowledgeable and gives me good pointers. …