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Military Musicians Headline Inauguration Performances

Despite ongoing military action in Iraq and Afghanistan, Congressional officials said Wednesday there are no plans to diminish the 2005 presidential inaugural ceremonies — the first swearing-in since Richard Nixon’s to take place during wartime — but announced the occasion will feature an increased focus on the military.

“You will see every opportunity taken to express our appreciation for the military,” Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), who chairs the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, said Wednesday morning.

Most notably, the military will play a larger role in the Jan. 20 ceremony’s musical performances. “The emphasis that day and the recognition that will go to the military is more than is usually the case, [and] that was the president’s choice,” Lott said.

Among those musicians scheduled to appear are traditional performers, including the U.S. Marine Band — formally known as “The President’s Own,” the group is charged with providing music for the commander in chief — as well as other military groups including the U.S. Naval Academy Glee Club, U.S. Army Herald Trumpets and the U.S. Navy Sea Chanters.

Others scheduled to perform include Mississippi’s Alcorn State University Concert Choir, vocalist Wintley Phipps, vocalist Denyce Graves and mezzo-sorprano Susan Graham. In addition, artist Guy Hovis, with whom Lott sang in a college quartet at the University of Mississippi, will perform “Let the Eagle Soar.” A spokesman for Lott noted the song, penned by outgoing Attorney General John Ashcroft, is one of the lawmaker’s favorites.

The ceremony is scheduled to conclude with a rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” by Air Force Technical Sgt. Bradley Bennett. The performance will mark the first time a member of the Air Force has held the distinction, Lott said.

“It’s a tremendous honor to be chosen for this, and it’s very humbling especially because it’s the Air Force’s first time,” said Bennett, a tenor vocalist.

The JCCIC estimates approximately 250,000 people will attend the events on the Capitol’s West Front, during which Chief Justice William Rehnquist is scheduled to swear-in President Bush to a second term.

Vice President Cheney will also take the oath of office for a second term; however, he will be sworn in by Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), marking the fourth time in the nation’s history such an arrangement will be used. Then-Speaker Sam Rayburn (D-Texas) swore in then-Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, as did Tip O’Neill (D-Mass) for Vice President Walter Mondale and John McCormack (D-Mass.) for Vice President Hubert Humphrey.

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