Washington D.C. (January 22, 2013) Beyonce sang the National Anthem for President Obama's inauguration yesterday on Martin Luther King Day - or did she? One of the general problems with having a pop diva sing The National Anthem while the U.S. Marine band plays should be obvious. Classically trained musicians can read music and know how to follow a conductor. If they are handed sheet music of a different arrangement - even for a song they know well - they show up early and run through it with the conductor.
The music was a somewhat odd arrangement which started in a range was unfavorable to Beyonce's voice. Her opening notes could barely be heard. The National Anthem is one of those tricky tunes which exposes every flaw in someone's voice because of its extensive range. Every singer knows this is part of the challenge.
The other alternative would have been to have Beyonce sing a capella. It could have been disastrous, however it would have prevented so many people from being disappointed and angry about using a pre-recorded track. It begs the question as to how time was made to pre-record the track but no time was found to rehearse with the band.
On the other hand, Kelly Clarkson did sing live with the band for "My Country Tis Of Thee." U.S. Marine Band Master Sgt. Kristin duBois confirmed reports of lip synching telling ABC News "We all know Beyonce can sing. We all know the Marine Corps Band can play. We do not know why she decided to go with the pre-recorded music at the last minute."
Colonel Colburn, speaking this afternoon to The Washingtonian, says the band and the singer had decided Sunday night to use a precorded music track, since they were unable to coordinate a time for a full rehearsal. "She wasn't comfortable performing without a rehearsal, and I wasn't comfortable that either," he said. "We always knew that was a possibility." Every singer in yesterday's inauguration had a "safety" track at the ready in case weather, temperatures, or instrument problems arose at the last minute; Kelly Clarkson's was recorded on Saturday in Washington, although she did sing "My Country 'Tis of Thee" live at the ceremony. The so-called "safety recording" for the Star Spangled Banner, done Sunday night with the Marine Band present by the singer when she arrived in Washington, was based on a practice national anthem the band had sent her earlier in the month.
So, instead of rehearsing, they recorded. What a waste of time! Scheduling conflicts which prevented that rehearsal time should have been a ticket to finding a singer who could handle the circumstances, not coddling a pop princess who wouldn't be able to do that. There are several famous singers who are able to deliver under such circumstances starting with Audra McDonald, Kristen Chenoweth, and Kelly Clarkson.
In 2009 cellist Yo-Yo Ma, violinist Itzhak Perlman, pianist Gabriela Montero, and clarinetist Anthony McGill did not play John Williams' "Air and Simple Gifts" that was projected onto the Mall. Cold presents real problems for playing instruments which go out of tune in extreme temperatures. NPR spoke to Yo Yo Ma on "All Things Considered" about the 2009 inauguration. It was feared that frigid temperatures would "crack instruments and break strings" because the temperature was below freezing. The keys of Montero's piano were sticking.
However, in 2013 it was 40 degrees, enough to make James Taylor worry but still perform live. In the end, it appears that people would rather have a slightly flawed live performance rather than a perfect recording which is lip-synched to. Is it a little harder to sing when it's cold? Perhaps. But it's harder to face the world when it's confirmed that you were lip-synching. Perhaps it's not even the lip-synching but passing it off as if it wasn't and doing it when apparently there was no actual need with proper planning.
Watch additional videos of performances ABC News.
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