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    Sunday, June 23, 2024

    New London singer Mason Imperial to sing anthem Wednesday at Fenway

    Mason Imperial performs at the Whale Tail stage on July 13 during Sailfest. (@skr2_photography)
    New London's Mason Imperial to sing National Anthem tonight at Fenway Park

    Billy Joel, Phish, the Who and the Zac Brown Band are just a few of the acts playing at Fenway Park this summer.

    And don't forget New London's Mason Imperial.

    Well, technically, Imperial is singing the National Anthem Wednesday before the Red Sox/Tampa Bay Rays game but, given the etched-in-history relationship between ball parks and "The Star-Spangled Banner," it's hard to imagine a more memorable honor for any performer.

    "It's really starting to sink it that it's going to happen," Imperial says by phone earlier this month. "I'll tell friends I'm not nervous, and they say, 'You DO know this is Fenway, right?'

    "I get that, and it is such an honor. It's not just another song. It means so much to me, and it has so much power for all of us. But I'm confident because of those things and also because I've worked so hard on this."

    Imperial — whose real name is Malik Correia; Mason Imperial is his stage name — is a 24-year-old native of New Bedford, Mass., who moved to New London six years ago. He submitted his rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" in 2018 to the Red Sox via email.

    "They got back to me and said yes," Imperial says simply — and there's still a touch of "pinch me, is this real?" to his tone. "I'm blessed with this opportunity, and I'm excited about it and grateful. I mean, I have so much respect for this nation."

    Imperial says his arrangement plays to his vocal strengths.

    "I definitely tackled it my way, and I'm not trying to sound like anyone else," he says. "But it's such a powerful song. You can move mountains with this song, so I want to use MY vocal power — I have a lot of bass strength — to emphasize the melody and words. I'm not trying to hit super high falsetto notes or do anything radical."

    In an email, Jae Holland, manager of Fan Services & Entertainment for the Red Sox, the department that books the team's home game anthem performers, confirms Imperial's July 31 appearance. Holland says, "Mason submitted his anthem rendition to me last year and we were able to find a date for him this season." Holland says that the actual selection process is something the team doesn't expound on, and that all submissions come via music@redsox.com emails.

    Imperial says that, while he doesn't always watch the Red Sox, his father is a huge fan. He adds that growing up in Massachusetts provided a steady awareness of the team and Fenway Park. To sing the anthem there, he says, is a perfect situation — but he's had to work hard to get to this point. A self-described late-blooming contemporary R&B singer, Imperial said he only found his musical focus after moving to New London six years ago after graduating from high school.

    SUBHEAD: A warm, Whaling City welcome

    "New London is so welcoming, and I fell in love with it here," he says. "It reminds me of New Bedford — both are beautiful cities — but I've been able to find myself as a person and an artist since moving here."

    Though Imperial took a few vocal lessons in his younger days, he mostly worked by himself on various singing exercises and techniques. In high school, he was part of a competitive dancing/singing choir that he found nurturing.

    "I never stood out, but I worked really hard at it," Imperial says. "I learned about working with others and also that the music business can be competitive."

    In New London, Imperial released the first song he ever wrote, "Be My Baby," on social media platforms and began to network with other local artists. Last year, he entered the New London Talent Show and says a world of opportunity blossomed for him.

    "I'd been performing in a small context, but the whole team behind the New London Talent Show — the whole experience — was so positive and supportive in every way. I learned so much about the whole business of performing. I went into it cautious and curious and quickly figured out they won't let you get on that stage without being at your very best."

    "How cool is it that Mason is performing the National Anthem for the Boston Red Sox?" says Curtis K. Goodwin, co-founder and executive director of the New London Talent Show. Goodwin says that, for each edition of the talent show, their goal is to design a specific and distinct goal for each participant to help them reach their maxiumum potential as a citizen and artist. "For Mason, it was to maximize and enhance his ability to entertain an audience, while challenging him to leave a piece of himself on stage each time."

    Imperial has gradually increased his performance schedule in New London and is working to take advantage of the city's vibrant arts and music scene. In May, he sang at the "Born This Way" fashion show at Ocean Beach and appeared three different times at the recent Sailfest. He's also sung at the Brass Rail and says he enjoys going to Dockside each Wednesday to take part in their Karaoke Night.

    "There's so much music and enthusiasm in this community," Imperial says. "An artist is only as great as his team and fellow artists and community. I would never use the word 'fans.' It's 'family' to me. We all want to be part of something and to give back."

    "When we met Mason, we saw confidence and his love for entertainment," Goodwin says. "Simply put, we saw potential. Something we look for within all of our acts. How can we use art to tell a story, move and inspire people? For Mason, it's led to the Boston Red Sox. It's led to him being in a space where he is now a mentor to others. It was heartwarming to see him leave a piece of himself on the our stage last April — and now he's taking a piece of the talent show with him."

    If you go

    Who: Mason Imperial

    What: Sings National Anthem before Boston Red Sox/Tampa Bay Rays game

    When: 7 p.m. Wednesday

    Where: Fenway Park, 4 Yawkey Way, Boston

    How much: $25-$245

    For more information: mlb.com/redsox

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