CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Careful planning and work has gone into selecting, preparing and delivering Lee University's Festival Choir, composed of 200 students, to its appointed task in January: performing at the presidential inauguration. The theme of the 2013 Inauguration Day is "Faith in America's Future."
"You never picture yourself in this kind of once-in-a-lifetime event," said Dr. Bill Green, dean of the university's school of music and director of the Festival Choir.
The choice of a Lee University choral group for the presidential inauguration was a "wise decision" by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, said U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., during his announcement of the honor, made on campus Nov. 1.
He said the event is "a wonderful platform" for millions to enjoy Lee University's choral talents.
Since the announcement, Green and other choral staff narrowed their choices for choir members from 350 students who perform in the university's seven choirs. The Festival Choir members were chosen not only for their talent but for their commitment and ability to travel well, he said.
He said a repertoire of up to nine songs has been chosen. The selections were made to evoke American spirituality, patriotism, religion and regional flavoring; all had to undergo three approvals with inaugural organizers, he said.
Green said the Festival Choir has 30 minutes of material ready to go in case of scheduling adjustments, but has been advised that its stage time should fall between 15 and 20 minutes.
"This Land is Your Land" and "God Bless America" are part of the song repertoire, but "Chattanooga Choo-Choo," was an all-around favorite with event organizers, Green said.
The Festival Choir is getting quite a bit of practice with the material, taking home song recordings over winter break and coming back early to get back into group rehearsals on Jan. 5.
Beyond the singers and songs, much more has to be done to put together Lee University's contribution to Inauguration Day.
Green and a task force have visited Washington, D.C., to get the lay of the land and figure out how to transport 200 choral students and nearly 50 handlers to their lodgings and to the event.
"We are in a hotel eight miles out, but we expect it will take an hour to reach our destination on Inauguration Day," he said.
The inaugural weekend schedule has the choir arriving on Friday and attending its first Washington, D.C., practice on Saturday evening. Sunday will be spent in rehearsals. Monday will have the Festival Choir performing before the actual prelude, which is performed by the Marine Corps Band, Green said.
He said he plans to have the Festival Choir give a local preview of the inaugural performance a week or two before the main event. That show may include some ensemble musicians in support of the choir.