White House Celebrates Gospel Music with “In Performance at the White House” Concert

white house concert

Tuesday night the East Wing of the White House was alive with the sound of music for President Obama and friends, as the White House played host to veteran Gospel singers and top recording gospel artists.

Spanning every presidential administration since Carter’s regime, this edition of “In Performance at the White House” featured top artists as Emmylou Harris, Darlene Love, Pastor Shirley Caesar, Tamela Mann, Rhiannon Giddens, Lyle Lovett, Rance Allen, Rodney Crowell, and the Morgan State University Choir. Revered musical talents as Aretha Franklin, T Bone Burnett, and master of ceremonies Robin Roberts, were also present as guests of honor.

Opening the evening with an electric speech at the the normally quiet East Wing of White House which had been somewhat been transformed into a concert venue by the addition of a stage, piano, band members, purple and red lighting, and backup singers, Obama referred to gospel music as “songs of hope.”

Stating that gospel music had played a tremendous role in shaping up the history of America right from the slavery era and continuing on through the civil rights movement and beyond, he added that though the genre of music has evolved over time, “the heart” still remains true.

In this edition of the once-in-a-while White House concert that was to celebrate the role of gospel music in American life, President Obama said that gospel music still has an unmatched power to strike the deepest chord in all of us.

“It still has an unmatched power to strike the deepest chord in all of us, touching people of all faiths and of no faith,” he said while opening the event.

Speaking on the origin of music, Obama added that “we don’t know everything. However, we do know that it is well-rooted in the spirituals sung by slaves. While they were often prohibited from reading, writing or even speaking slaves were able to sing.” This he said in a statement published on the White House official blog.

Earlier in the day of the Tuesday event, wife to the President, Michelle Obama, hosted more than 130 students from across the US in an interactive workshop that had the evening’s performers in attendance. It was an interactive Q & A session on the origins of gospel music and the importance of music in young people’s lives.

Michelle said gospel music is a “ray of hope” that fueled her general love for music.

Recalling how she was exposed to gospel music at an early age through relatives, including her mother, Marian, who sang in a church choir, the First Lady said that “there’s nothing like hearing a choir sing an old gospel classic.”

Talking more about gospel music, Mrs Obama also said that “it’s what helps connect us to God, to that higher power, and for so many, when times are dark and when you’re struggling, gospel music is that ray of hope and it gives you that strength.”

The full-length of Tuesday night’s celebration of gospel music in the White House will be broadcasted nationwide on PBS stations on June 26 at 9:00 p.m. ET.


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