Aires sing at White House party
By Jackie Wei
Published on Wednesday, January 4, 2012
The Dartmouth Aires did not let the lack of snow in Washington preclude them from celebrating an early “white” Christmas on Dec. 16 when the a cappella group performed at the White House as part of its winter tour. The Aires sang holiday favorites and some of their arrangements from NBC’s “The Sing-Off” for the last of a series of private holiday parties held by President Barack Obama.
Danny Freeman ’13 had established contacts with the White House while interning for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand ’88, D-N.Y., during the summer after his freshman year. Through those contacts, Freeman secured a spot for the Aires at the holiday party.
Many of Obama’s close friends, the entire White House staff and decorated U.S. soldiers returning from war were among the guests at the event, according to Freeman.
At the event, the Aires sang Christmas favorites such as “Let it Snow” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” as well as two popular “Sing-Off” renditions: “Animal” by Neon Trees and “Pinball Wizard” by The Who.
Each member of the Aires had the opportunity to meet Obama, which Michael Odokara-Okigbo ’12 said was a “humbling” experience.
“He is incredibly personable and just larger than life,” Freeman said. “To be in the heart of the nation’s capital with the President and the First Lady brings a rush of awe.”
The Aires were offered a photo opportunity, but did not realize that it would be with the President and First Lady Michelle Obama, according to Nathaniel Davis ’14. After the photo, they were given the opportunity to sing a one-minute sample for the President, during which they sang a portion of “Let it Snow.”
“Performing for Obama was really special and unique in multiple ways — our shows usually don’t last as long as that one did,” Xavier Curry ’14 said. “Another special element was the fact that the guests for the White House party had no idea we were the entertainment for the night, so we got to see their genuine surprise and affection when they came around the corner and saw us singing there.”
Typical tour venues include schools, private events and alumni clubs, according to Eric Suan ’14.
“The chance to sing at the White House was thrilling,” he said. “Just being in the presence of so many amazing people gave us seemingly endless energy.”
The Aires sang for nearly five hours straight, performing until 8:30 p.m. in the lower ground floor of the East Wing, a “beautiful open space with resonant sounds,” according to Clark Moore ’13.
The Aires finished their winter tour in Baltimore, having traveled throughout the Northeast to New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Connecticut. Suan managed the 10-day tour, which consisted mainly of college shows and alumni club performances all over the East Coast.
“These shows are more personal than ‘The Sing-Off’ was because we are performing for people we have established relationships with, which gets us more excited,” Freeman said. “We aim to make each individual experience fun for every member in the audience.”
Several Dartmouth alumni were present at the White House on Friday.
“It was nice to have the alums there,” Odokara-Okigbo said. “You could see them singing along to the Dartmouth Alma Mater.”
Many Aires members said they were happy to spend the holidays with their families and were anxious to return to campus after having been away for an extended period of time for “The Sing-Off.”
“I am ready for a quiet Winter term,” Ethan Weinberg ’12 said.
For Curry, Winter term is going to be a “juggling act.” He is looking to take Theater 40 and commit his time to the scene shop while keeping up with music.
“I’m also trying to work on some more of my own music too, that I always end up sliding to the back of my priority list,” Curry said. “So this term is going to stretch me really thin, but hey, it’s a new year. I think I’m ready to start it off strong.”