Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir Soloist Recounts Inauguration Performance

Audio: Alicia Olatuja on the Inauguration Performance

Friday, January 25, 2013 - 10:00 AM

Among the highlights of President Obama's inauguration ceremonies on Monday was a performance of "Battle Hymn of the Republic" by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.

The performance, which came just minutes before the president took the oath of office, featured a solo by 30-year-old mezzo-soprano Alicia Olatuja. "It didn’t really hit me that I was going to be singing in front of a billion people until a week prior," she told WQXR's Terrance McKnight.

The arrangement, by music director Carol Cymbala, the wife of Pastor Jim Cymbala, and Jason Michael Webb, aimed for a stirring effect. It also featured about nine key changes. "I had to have an inner ear to hear what was happening in the orchestration, especially because the music was really quiet right before I come in," Olatuja explained. "The worst thing to happen would be for me to come in the wrong key."

Founded in 1965, the nondenominational Brooklyn Tabernacle church boasts 10,000 members, including a 280-member choir. The ensemble performs each Sunday in the 4,000-seat former Loew’s Metropolitan movie house in downtown Brooklyn. It has won six Grammy Awards for gospel singing and has appeared in Carnegie Hall and Radio City Music Hall. The church notes that the choir's singers are mostly amateur and come from all walks of life.

Olatuja studied classical voice at the Manhattan School of Music but said she loves singing jazz and soul music. "I believe in taking in all these different sounds, then when it comes out of you, that is your signature sound."


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Comments [2]

James Klosty from Millbrook, NY

I did not watch the inauguration on PBS, although I might well have. It is only now, reading this piece on WXQR that i saw the video footage broadcast by that normally reliable source. It was APPALLING! Whoever directed that sequence should be fired, along with the abysmal, erratic camera man. To have spent the first minute focused on the face of a single white woman, attractive as she might be, while hundreds of others marvelous singers (and marvelous faces) were singing their hearts out was inexcusable and in the poorest possible taste. Thank god I was watching another station!

Jan. 28 2013 05:44 PM
Silversalty from Brooklyn

Beautiful expression of a song about freedom. Real freedom for all. Sad that it doesn't seem to apply anymore, but I'll let that pass for now (except for upChuck Schumer - he gulped for Wall Street - but not for you).

As I try to survive driving around NYC I notice the signs of respect for the people that fought for freedom and a just nation during the American Civil War. "The South" still worships that war and its fighters, but "The North" seems to have forgotten the significance and the ideals of the war. I tell people about Plymouth Church when I drive through Brooklyn Heights (with its minister, Henry Ward Beecher - brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe). I note that William Tecumseh Sherman's statue in Grand Army Plaza in Manhattan - next to the "Plaza Hotel" - is losing its gilding. (There's a bigger "Grand Army" of the Republic plaza in Brooklyn). Grant's tomb on the upper west side is pretty much forgotten. You know. Grant. Ulysses S. The guy who actually decided to fight the slavers of "The South." When going by Cooper Union I mention the speech Lincoln gave there to begin his political campaign for the presidency, explaining the hypocrisy of "The South" and informing "North" supporters that he was the 'real deal.'

Oh. I forgot. Je suis Canadien. But that doesn't mean I don't know the difference between buffalo chips, hope-a-dopes and the real deal.

Ask yourself who killed Aaron Swartz? And what Aaron stood for. Sing it loud!

John Kirkiakou is about to spend 30 months in a federal prison for exposing CIA torture and murders but Karl Rove and Dick Cheney have no fear of prosecution for effectively the same act - committed years before. The only similarity is that the people trying to do right, got punished. The ignored evil involved was horrific, in both cases.

Sing it loud!

Jan. 26 2013 05:14 PM

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