After Aretha Franklin's stirring, soulful rendition of My Country 'Tis of Thee, but before the national anthem, inauguration viewers were treated to a piece by John Williams called Air and Simple Gifts.
Performers were violinist Itzhak Perlman, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, clarinetist Anthony McGill and pianist Gabriele Montero. (Local tie: McGill, principal clarinet of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, is brother of Demarre McGill, principal flute with the Florida Orchestra from 2001 until 2004.) Lasting just over four minutes, the piece is an arrangement of the Shaker tune Simple Gifts, familiar from Aaron Copland's ballet score Appalachian Spring.
We asked some local music luminaries to give us their thoughts on the piece.
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"What I found very encouraging is that classical music played such a prominent role in the inauguration. I was enormously moved."
Stefan Sanderling, Florida Orchestra music director, who broke rehearsal early Tuesday so musicians could watch the inauguration.
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"Any extreme of temperature is bad on your instrument. The colder it is, the less moisture there is in the air, and that affects you. It's really hard for pitch. They played it beautifully."
Jeff Multer, the orchestra's concertmaster, who was impressed by how fine the performance was in the chilly weather.
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"It had some slow, pensive moments, and it also had an up-tempo kick. There was an interesting harmonic twist at the end. I thought it was very effective when the camera showed the birds flying above the White House while the quartet played."
Mark Sforzini, a composer and artistic director of St. Petersburg Opera, who likened the Williams arrangement to a mini-overture.
John Fleming, Times performing arts critic