Aretha Franklin will perform at Barack Obama’s presidential swearing-in ceremony on the steps of the Capitol on Jan. 20.
Inaugural organizers announced that Itzhak Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma would perform a new musical selection composed by John Williams, joined by pianist Gabriela Montero and clarinetist Anthony McGill. Poet and playwright Elizabeth Alexander will deliver a poem, and other musical selections will be sung by the San Francisco Boys Chorus and the San Francisco Girls Chorus.
For weeks, there has been speculation as to whom Obama and his team would select to perform at the historic occasion — regarded as the most prestigious of all assignments amid an array of inauguration events that will be populated with celebrities and artists. Rumors flew that Franklin, aka “the queen of soul,” would take part in the ceremony. The night before, she is scheduled to perform a free concert to honor Martin Luther King Jr. at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
The lineup was announced by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies and chosen by its chair, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, along with Obama and Vice President-elect Joseph Biden.
The mix of popular and classical entertainment is certainly not a surprise. What did catch some groups off-guard was the selection of a clergyman to deliver the invocation: the Rev. Rick Warren, the celebrity pastor of Saddleback Church in Orange County, Calif.
His choice triggered protest from groups that opposed Proposition 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriage, because Warren took such a public stance in favor of it. Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, called on Obama to reconsider the announcement and said that his selection delivered a “genuine blow” to the LGBT rights movement.
Obama Inaugural Committee spokeswoman Linda Douglass said, “Our goal is to present the most open and most accessible inauguration in history, and that means all people and all points of view.”
She added that while Obama and Warren have found common ground on issues like poverty and HIV and AIDS, the president-elect disagrees with Warren on a number of issues “that affect the LGBT community.”
She also pointed out that the Rev. Joseph Lowery, co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with King, will deliver a benediction and has a long history of supporting civil rights for gays and lesbians.