WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama can expect some sweet serenades at his inauguration ceremony, with hit-makers Beyonce, Kelly Clarkson and James Taylor scheduled to perform.
Planners of the Jan. 21 event announced Wednesday that Beyonce will sing the national anthem, Clarkson will perform "My Country 'Tis of Thee" and Taylor will sing "America the Beautiful." They said the president personally selected the performers.
Richard Blanco, the son of Cuban exiles, is the 2013 inaugural poet, joining the ranks of Maya Angelou and Robert Frost. Blanco's works explore his family's exile from their native country and "the intersection of his cultural identities as a Cuban-American gay man," the inaugural planners announced. They said Blanco, 44, will be the youngest-ever inaugural poet and the first Hispanic or gay to recite a poem at the ceremonial swearing-in.
"His contributions to the fields of poetry and the arts have already paved a path forward for future generations of writers," Obama said in a statement. "Richard's writing will be wonderfully fitting for an inaugural that will celebrate the strength of the American people and our nation's great diversity."
Obama also gave a nod to the diversity of styles and backgrounds of the musical performers, saying, "Their music is often at the heart of the American story and speaks to folks across the country."
Blanco said in the statement announcing his selection that he was "brimming over with excitement, awe, and gratitude" at being selected.
"In many ways, this is the very `stuff' of the American Dream, which underlies so much of my work and my life's story -- America's story, really," he said.
Paperbacks of Blanco's books are out of stock on Amazon.com. They, along with virtually all works of poetry, are not available as e-books since publishers have not figured out how to format poetry properly for a digital device, so the only way to buy them is to find a used print copy.
The talent announcements are part of the specifics beginning to emerge for the festivities planned over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. The swearing-in ceremony is scheduled for Monday since inaugurations aren't traditionally held on Sundays, although the president will have a private swearing-in ceremony at the White House at noon on Jan. 20, the time the Constitution says his second term begins.
The official celebration will include the swearing-in on the Capitol's west front, followed by a luncheon inside the building's Statuary Hall for 200 including congressional leaders, Cabinet members and Supreme Court justices. Planners revealed details of the lunch Wednesday, including the menu of steamed lobster, New England chowder, hickory grilled bison with wild huckleberry reduction and red potato horseradish cake and a dessert of apple pie, ice cream, cheese and honey.
Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, who chairs the congressional committee overseeing events at the Capitol, said wines will be served with each course from his home state of New York. And planners say they are decorating the tables with orange flowers in silver cachepots, "a geometric patterned tablecloth that picks up the copper and bronze tones of Statuary Hall," while the head table will be draped in blue velvet.
Schumer's committee plans to present Obama with a custom hand-cut crystal Lenox vase with an etching of the White House, while Vice President Joe Biden will be given one etched with an image of the Capitol.