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"Air and Simple Gifts"

As performed at the Inauguration of President Barack Obama on January 20, 2009.

It was during this performance that Barack H. Obama became the 44th President of the United States -- precisely at 12 noon.

Martin Steinberg wrote:

It was written by an iconic American movie composer and performed by a quartet direct from central casting -- in front of a worldwide audience of millions.

It was a simple gift from composer John Williams.

The Oscar-winning composer of "Star Wars," "Jaws" and "Schindler's List" pulled together this five-minute piece to commemorate the inauguration of Barack Obama as the nation's 44th president.

The quartet played what Williams calls "Air and Simple Gifts" immediately before Obama was sworn in. In fact, the musicians were still playing when, according to the Constitution, Obama officially became president -- at the stroke of noon Tuesday.

The composition arranged by Williams begins with a soft introduction, played by Venezuelan-American pianist Gabriela Montero and Chinese-American cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Moments later, the violin, played by the Israeli-American Itzhak Perlman, enters with a sweet, pensive theme gliding over the lower voices. The cello then takes off and engages the violin in a lovely duet.

This warm melodic air -- evoking a musical image of bald eagles soaring over America's terrain -- cut through the chill of the 28-degree temperature that forced Montero to wear gloves.

Then, the clarinet, played by the African-American musician Anthony McGill of the Metropolitan Opera orchestra, interjects with a familiar tune. It's "Simple Gifts," written in the mid-1800s by a Shaker composer and popularized by Aaron Copland in his 1944 ballet "Appalachian Spring."

In the face of the awesome tasks facing Obama, Williams' arrangement of the song conveys a joyous romp filled with confidence and hope. And the unsung lyrics bear this out:

"'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,

"'Tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,

"And when we find ourselves in the place just right,

"'Twill be in the valley of love and delight."


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Comments (6)

"It was a simple gift from composer John Williams."

In keeping with the spirit of the rest of this article and the Inaugural benediction, shouldn't that have read "white-as-rice, inherently evil Anglo Saxon John Williams"?

Just askin ...

Lee Ward:

Obama's inauguration was a historic occasion on a number of levels.

It marks a sea change of policies that have hurt our nation, its people and the community of nations for 8 long years.

It was hugely historic a swell from a race standpoint as well. The dais on which President Barack Obama stood and took that oath was literally steps away from the holding pen used to contain the slaves who built the Capitol.

Yesterday millions and millions of Americans celebrated the rise of a black American to the highest office in the land. A minority of Americans loathed it. The racist hatred fires that have burned inside the chest of some white Americans for decades is still alive.

Obama's presidency signals that a majority of Americans can now celebrate a significant milestone in race relations in our nation.

Your comment signals there is still much work to be done.

J.R.:

Obama's presidency signals that a majority of Americans can now celebrate a significant milestone in race relations in our nation.

Yeah, too bad that feeling was ruined by a closing racist rant by Joseph Lowery during his "benediction."

Lee Ward:

How dare that black man suggest there is still much work to do in this nation to turn the tide of racism and hate.

Now where would he get that impression?

I've posted a video and transcript of the benediction here.

ryan a:

Michael wrote:

"In keeping with the spirit of the rest of this article and the Inaugural benediction, shouldn't that have read "white-as-rice, inherently evil Anglo Saxon John Williams"?"

Wow, it's not often that you see the main site authors trolling like this. Very very impressive Michael.

Lee Ward:

Michael has been commenting here for months, and a few days ago I asked him to use his full Wizbang author name instead of "Mike," which he'd used in the past.


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Publisher: Kevin Aylward

Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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