Washington (AP) - Whether you loved or hated the classical music
played at President Barack Obama's inauguration, unless you were
sitting within earshot of the celebrated quartet, what you heard
was a recording made two days earlier.
Cellist Yo-Yo Ma, violinist Itzhak Perlman, pianist Gabriella
Montero and clarinetist Anthony McGill made the decision a day
before Tuesday's inauguration after a sound check to use a
previously recorded audio tape for the broadcast of the ceremonies.
Carole Florman, a spokeswoman for the Joint Congressional
Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, said the weather was too cold
for the instruments to stay in tune.
"They were very insistent on playing live until it became clear
that it would be too cold," said Florman in a telephone interview
People sitting nearby could hear the musicians play "Air and
Simple Gifts", written for the inauguration by John Williams, but
their instruments were not amplified.
"It would have been a disaster if we had done it any other
way," Perlman told the New York Times, which first reported that
the music was taped on its Web site Thursday. "This occasion's got
to be perfect. You can't have any slip-ups."
The Marine Band, the youth choruses and the Navy Band Sea
Chanters performed live, Florman said, although Aretha Franklin was
accompanied by taped music and voices.
Florman said all the acts "laid down tape" before Tuesday's
inauguration. When they did their sound checks on Monday, all but
the quartet made the decision to have their live performances
The temperature hovered around 30 for the ceremony on the
Capitol steps, too cold for McGill's clarinet, Ma's cello or
Perlman's violin to offer true pitch. But the cold played havoc
with the piano, which can't hold tune below 55 degrees for more
than two hours, Florman said. The group played at 11:43 a.m., and
guests seated near them could hear them as well as the tape made
two days earlier. Guests seated farther away, the crowds that
thronged the National Mall, and the millions who watched around the
world heard the taped version of Williams' piece.
"This isn't Milli Vanilli," Florman insisted, referring to the
late 1980s group stripped of a Grammy for lip-syncing. "They had
to perform in such cold weather, the instruments couldn't possibly
be in tune. They were able to play in sync with the tape. It's not
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)