Lee University choir rehearsing for U.S. presidential inauguration

photo Dr. Bill Green, the dean of Lee University's School of Music, directs the Festival Choir during rehearsals for their presidential inauguration performance on Jan. 21.

IF YOU GOWhat: Lee University Festival Choir performs its inauguration programWhen: 7 p.m. Jan. 17Where: Conn Center, 1053 Church St. SEAdmission: Free

CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Sing for President Barack Obama on Inauguration Day at the U.S. Capitol? No pressure.

Lee University's 200-member Festival Choir is polishing its performance and honing its harmonies in preparation for its scheduled appearance at the U.S. Capitol shortly before the midday swearing-in on Jan. 21.

Choir members returned to campus early from Christmas break to spend Saturday working. The reality of what they are doing finally has started to sink in, senior Cody Turner said during a break in the third round of rehearsals.

"The hard work has started, but it is well worth it," said Turner. "It's an absolutely amazing opportunity to be able to sing with this choir and to do what we get to do."

The theme of the 2013 Inauguration Day is "Faith in America's Future," and the choir's repertoire -- encompassing patriotic, spiritual and regional music -- is a good fit.

Dr. Bill Green, the dean of the university's school of music and the group's director, said the selections include "This Land is Your Land," "God Bless America" and "Chattanooga Choo-Choo," which was an all-round favorite of event organizers.

"We were told to have 30 minutes of material ready, but we may only perform for 15 or 20 minutes," said Green. "We won't know until we arrive to perform."

Although scheduling constraints may not allow the Festival Choir to present the entire performance on Inauguration Day, there will be a full-blown local community showcase on Jan. 17 before the group leaves for Washington, D.C. Unlike the inaugural show, the community showcase will be supported by a woodwind ensemble during some parts.

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The Festival Choir was drawn from more than 300 members of the university's seven choral groups, said Green.

Turner praised Green's leadership and ability to assimilate the diverse choral backgrounds of the Festival Choir's members.

"There's nobody better qualified to bring us to the level we need to achieve for this performance," said Turner.

Organizers have had to move quickly since Nov. 1, when Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said Lee University had been selected to perform at the inauguration.

"It's a huge opportunity and an extreme honor to get a chance to sing with 199 of the best singers we have at Lee," said senior Ashten Walker, who studies elementary education. "I'll never have another opportunity to sing for our president in Washington, D.C."