The Inauguration: The Part That May Have Reminded You Of Your High School Band

Jan 20th, 2009 // 14 Comments


Judging by the way our traffic cratered between 11:30 a.m. and 12:45 p.m. today, most of you probably saw the above clip of Itzhak Perlman, Anthony McGill, Gabriela Montero, and the super-cheerful Yo-Yo Ma performing at the inauguration ceremony of President Barack Obama. The piece they performed, Star Wars composer John Williams’ “Air And Simple Gifts,” used as part of its foundation the melody to “Simple Gifts,” a 19th-century Shaker hymn that was used by American composer Aaron Copland in his 1944 ballet Appalachian Spring. As it turns out, Williams’ homage not only sounded pretty, it served to avenge some red-baiting that kept Copland off a pre-inaugural bill many years ago.

Although Williams chose to use the Copland material because President Obama counts that composer among his classical favorites, there’s another significant point here. In 1953, a pre-inaugural concert by the National Symphony Orchestra at Constitution Hall, a concert attended by then president-elect Eisenhower, was to have included a performance of one of Copland’s most popular works, A Lincoln Portrait. But a Republican congressman (from Illinois, by the way) objected, suggesting that Copland was too liberal and maybe even Communist-friendly, so the piece was pulled from the concert. Inserting the touch of Copland into the Obama inauguration, Williams told Variety last week, offers “a completed circle of events that is nice to think about.”

Awesome. Although it’s kind of a bummer that they couldn’t figure out a way to fit Weezer in.

Yo-Yo Ma And Itzak Perlman Perform At The Inauguration [YouTube]
Inaugural premiere resonates with Copland [Clef Notes]
Weezer – MTV Artist Of The Week – Greatest Man [YouTube]

  1. MayhemintheHood

    Yo-Yo Ma’s enthusiasm was easily one of the highlights of the morning for me.

  2. T'Challa

    @MayhemintheHood: Co-sign! Dude was seriously having the best time up there. And it was awesome to watch.

  3. T'Challa

    @MayhemintheHood: Co-sign! Dude was seriously having the best time up there. And it was awesome to watch.

  4. Anonymous

    I love her and hate to say this, but Aretha wasn’t too good.

  5. the rich girls are weeping

    @juiceandgin: Well, it was really cold out.

  6. Gnosis

    I thought Copeland was a nice choice too! He was a childhood favorite, but then in my adult years I wondered if his work was perhaps jingoist. Then I read about him in the New Yorker a while ago and realized that he was very progressive. Here’s the abstract.

  7. Cam/ron

    The performance didn’t quite remind me of high school band. There weren’t enough missed notes and nervous pauses, plus there were more than 10 people in the audience.

  8. T'Challa

    @juiceandgin: I’m listening to Aretha’s rendition again now–while it’s not her best performance by a long shot, she definitely definitely took it to church!

  9. T'Challa

    @juiceandgin: I’m listening to Aretha’s rendition again now–while it’s not her best performance by a long shot, she definitely definitely took it to church!

  10. T'Challa

    …and for my true cello/band geeks: Yo-Yo Ma was supposed to use a new hi-tech carbon cello made especially to withstand bitter cold:

    [www.nytimes.com]

  11. T'Challa

    …and for my true cello/band geeks: Yo-Yo Ma was supposed to use a new hi-tech carbon cello made especially to withstand bitter cold:

    [www.nytimes.com]

  12. MameDennis

    I was kinda hoping for Keb’ Mo’, for I am a West Wing geek.

  13. ObtuseIntolerant

    Oh, I LOVED this performance, as I would run away with Yo-Yo Ma anyday (though the clarinetist could also totally have my number) but I thought you were going to refer to the marching bands in the parade.

    Because my thrill was that my literal, actual high school marching band was one of the first to pass the viewing tent, before the sun set.

    Alexis I. duPont Tigers Marching Band of Greenville, Delaware REPRESENT!

  14. Lou

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