The last several weeks have been a monumental whirlwind of activity. I almost can’t believe it has happened to me. I am absolutely amazed and honored to be a part of America’s emergence toward change and equality.
I’d like to share with you a page right out of history, our history. Those of us that are baby boomers have carried the pain of the sacrifices made by the Kennedy’s, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcom X, and their families. It’s as though our generation is waking up, and we can continue to fulfill our lives and do something that contributes to the New Day ahead. I am so thankful for that.
I am also thankful for two amazing people who have made this particular journey possible. Rickie Byers-Beckwith is the musical director of the choir, and has been my choir leader and mentor for the last two years. Tim McAfee-Lewis, the assistant musical director, created the possibility of my being a performing talent for the Presidential Inauguration ceremonies. I am ever grateful to both of them for providing me the opportunity to blossom both spiritually and as a performer.
Rickie and Tim in D.C.
My historical journey begins with the Agape Choir ensemble. The ensemble and I convened in a professional recording studio in Hollywood. We were told it was a rehearsal, and spent a couple of hours waiting to begin. Later we were surprised to learn that this ‘rehearsal’ was actually a professional recording session. The music artist, Will.I.Am and the legendary music producer, David Foster, composed a song called “America’s Song,” which we were asked to sing back up for. Herbie Hancock was recording in the studio while we were there.
It was thrilling to experience an actual recording session. From the moment we put our headsets on, to the repeated takes in which we re-recorded the smallest increments of music to the highest level of perfection, and on to the final product, it was a unique and professional experience. I was amazed by the level of intricate professionalism and how every single detail was carefully crafted. The recording session encompassed the entire process of how professional artists record their music. It was a humbling experience to be a part of the song, which will always remain a part of history, and to be singled out by David Foster was a great honor.
My experiences in Washington D.C. will always remain in my soul. From the moment my airplane landed, to the remarkable treks back and forth from studios, balls, metro stations and hotels, all in freezing cold weather, to the celebratory moments with celebrities and key figures, I will forever remember how magical it all was.
Pam Maloney at the Inauguration
The Agape Choir ensemble regrouped at the D.C. Convention Center for sound check with Will.I.Am. As we walked in the studio, Faith Hill was doing her sound check.
After we finished our sound check the adults from the choir went straight to the Om Ball, where Rev. Michael Beckwith was hosting and presented the invocation. Ricky Byers Beckwith played her original music with the choir singing her songs and chants which I was a part of. Deepak Chopra was the first guest speaker. While he spoke, we sat on the floor and watched in fascination.
One thing that stood out for me was his appearance. As he told the story of his mother as a little girl and a brief encounter she had with Gandhi regarding red roses, I couldn’t take my eyes off his apparel. He was decked out like a Bollywood star, dressed in a black raw silk Nehru jacket, and wearing rectangular rimmed glasses, notably trimmed with red and white rhinestones. It was very stylish!
Next, a movie was shown featuring Ram Dass, who spoke about his experience of having a stroke, and the aftereffects he experienced, and the challenge he was finding in remaining present with his ailing body, “Be Here Now” was his life theme and teaching. It was a very moving statement. The movie was followed by a lavish East Indian buffet with a traditional religious ceremony during the meal. The Om Ball was a great way to kick off the series of balls that we attended. The serenity and depth of the themes, and having our own Rev. Michael and Rickie starting the ceremony made us all feel very comfortable.
Monday proved to be a remarkable day. We kicked off the morning filming Oprah! Our call time was 6 am, but the Metro did not open till 5:30 am. Since we were not able to make it to the buses on time, we had to improvise and find our own way to the Kennedy Center, which luckily let us in easily. Unfortunately, the stage was small and only half of the choir was able to perform. This allowed me to be a witness backstage for the performance, and I was able to see many of the celebrities and artists that were set to perform.
America’s Song Performed on Oprah
Faith Hill backstage
After the Oprah performance, we went to the Huffington Post Ball sound check. When we walked in, Sting was in the middle of his sound check, and Will.I.Am jumped in to join him. Our director, Tim, spontaneously directed us to sing back up for the two of them, and gave us the unique opportunity to be part of their performance and dance to their music. It turned into a great private party!
Jamie Lee Curtis and Sharon Stone both watched us perform. Jamie Lee was very sweet and kept telling the kids to smile. Both looked exactly as you would expect them to as celebrities – Jamie Lee wore a classic black gown and Sharon flashed her glittering jewelry and bejeweled shoes.
Sting and Sharon Stone
Jamie Lee Curtis & Christopher Guest
We had sound checks and more sound checks! Next, we proceeded to the Green Ball for another sound check. Will.I.Am was extraordinarily playful with the children and the choir and in a jovial mood. We all had a great time.
Will I Am doing sound check
Will I Am hugs a child choir member
After the sound check we stayed in the green room and visited with Melissa Etheridge. On my way to the restroom, I peeked into the ball and was able to see Al Gore speak. While I was watching, Bobby Kennedy Jr. walked right by me. Before our performance, Kerry Kennedy greeted us backstage and tearfully thanked us for being a part of their event. She recalled the deaths of both her father, Bobby Kennedy and her uncle, JFK, and how they had worked relentlessly for this day. This inspired me to truly connect with the audience during our performance and give it my all. It was one of our strongest performances yet.
Al Gore and Will.I.Am
Will.I.Am and Agape Choir Ensemble
On to the next ball! To get to our next performance at the Huffington Post Ball we had to walk in 11 degree weather because all the streets were closed. Arianna was speaking to a packed hall when we arrived.
The Huffington Post Ball was held at the Newseum, an impressively amazing building made completely out of glass. At around five stories tall it gave us a great view of the Capitol Building that lit up gorgeously that night.
Looking out at the Capitol Building
So many people attended the party that there was only standing room available. Since the stage was small, there was only enough room for the kids to perform. Another stroke of luck left me standing in the front of the reception table where Arianna greeted the guests of honor and performers. This allowed me to literally rub shoulders with politicians and celebrities, such as Tom Hanks, Sting, Robert De Niro, and Sheryl Crow as they made their way through the crowd.
Robert De Niro and his wife
Sheryl Crowe and Sting
Inauguration Day, the dawn of a New Day! Taking the metro to the bus, we encountered the feel of the city. It took 4 trains for us to make our way through the crowds that were pressing forward. The positive charge of excitement, elation, and celebrative joy was a unified, harmonious, palpable sensation.
I met a man on the metro who told me he was in the army, a staunch Republican, had voted for McCain, loved what Bush had done while in office and admired him, but was amazed and won over by the sense of unity Obama created. He was thoroughly enjoying the day and fully into celebrating with the rest of DC.
We were able to view the actual Inauguration on television screens in the hotel bar.
Watching the inauguration in the hotel bar
It was great to have everyone together and at ease without the business of performing. This allowed us to have time to bond and reminisce about the events of the last several days. We were all elated and in a state of awe and wonder. Tears of joy streamed down some of our faces as we watched our new President be sworn in.
To get to the D.C. Convention Center, we took the bus to get to the dress rehearsal for the Neighborhood Ball. In the green room, Jaime Foxx joined us with his personal video camera and filmed and interviewed Rev. Michael Beckwith. Jaime also captured footage of the children dancing to the music, which was mixed by Mariah Carey’s DJ husband, Nick Cannon. Queen Latifah also took pictures with the children. She definitely knew how to prepare for the cold weather we were having. She was wise to wear comfortable Uggs boots underneath her ball gown to keep her feet warm.
Together with Will.I.Am we wowed the crowd and performed at the top of our game! As we exited the stage Maroon 5 went on to perform. I also saw Mary J. Blige walk by in her slippers. The legendary Stevie Wonder arrived backstage just as we were coming down from our performance. After our performance, we had about an hour to mingle and attend the ball. Our passes allowed us to see many things that others did not have the opportunity to see.
We saw amazing performances by Mariah Carey and Alicia Keys. Denzel Washington came out to announce President Obama and his wife, Michelle. When Barack entered the room he said “Doesn’t my wife look hot tonight?” to everyone’s amusement. Beyonce had the honor of singing “At Last” for their first dance as President and First Lady.
The President and First Lady have their first dance
Beyonce singing “At Last”
I was right in the front and got to witness it all! Stevie Wonder came out next to sing “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours!” That song signaled a huge mob of women to come out and dance with Barack. Most of the crowd joined Stevie in a full throated welcome to our new President as he danced to our song.
I watched our new President as he hugged several people, taking care to place a hand behind their heart and pull their heart toward his when he hugged, a very gentle, open and warm gesture. I thought it was an amazing quality for such a public man. He is a very likeable person, very charismatic and fun to watch.
Stevie Wonder performs
Obama gets mobbed by ladies
After the ball we were bussed to CNN to perform with Will.I.Am for the Larry King Show. You can see me in the back row just over Will.I.Am’s right shoulder.
Outside of Larry King Green Room
Larry King Center
Exhausted, elated, and filled with a once in a lifetime memory that requires the rest of our lives to assimilate, we left the larger group to take the buses back to the hotel. We made our way on the metro with the crowds of people dressed in tuxes and gowns leaving the best parties ever given. It was notable how many women had removed their high heels and walked stocking footed or in bare feet in the freezing temperature.
The notable thing about this entire experience was the honor and privilege I felt being right at the center of a powerful energy field. An energy field that contained hope, longing, celebration, anticipation and something greater – the collective effort to be united in one common goal, to achieve positive change. There were no boundaries, no discrimination or judgments being made. Everyone was equal and it was a magical experience. We had only to surrender our individual ego’s to become something larger than ourselves, something harmonious and full of promise. It was a truly transformative experience.
Thank you for sharing this historic journey with me. It doesn’t end here! The next newsletter will feature my experiences on the Tonight Show performing with Will.I.Am and other memorable events!
Here’s to a New Day of possibility and Unity.
Pam Maloney at the Inauguration!
I want to share with you the amazing experience I am being swept up in! The now World Famous Agape International Choir has formed an ensemble for the Presidential Inauguration activities. It is composed of the Agape Children’s Choir, the teen choir named Joy, and a handful of us in the International Choir. I sing alto in the choir. I am ecstatic to be part of this monumentally historic event, the manifestation of our values formed in my teens!
At the inauguration we will be singing backup to former Black Eyed Peas member, Will I Am. We sing three songs, “It’s A New Day”, “Yes We Can”, and “America Is Beautiful”. We are also performing at three of the evening Balls in Washington, DC.
Earlier this week, we recorded a music session for the Oprah Show produced by David Foster. (Herbie Hancock and Ramsey Lewis were sitting in studio with us).
You can definitely see us on TV at the actual Inauguration, and on the Oprah Show, live in DC. The details of when the earlier music session taping will be aired are still unconfirmed, but it is my understanding it will be aired sometime next week.
Sunday Afternoon we will likely sing at the Lincoln Memorial free concert, as Will I Am sings. This is not confirmed as yet. It is broadcast on HBO.
Sunday night we are confirmed to sing with Rickie Byers Beckwith (our musical director) at the Om Ball with Ram Dass, Michael Beckwith, Toni Childs, Neal Donald Walsh, James Twyman & several other remarkable individuals.
On Monday night we are confirmed to sing back up for Will I Am at the Green Ball at the Smithsonian Museum, hosted by Al Gore. Later that same evening, we will perform at the Huffington Ball (Arrianna Huffington). Talk about a busy night!
There is a surprise Monday afternoon performance, which details have not been provided yet. I suspect we are to be on the Oprah show live, as I overheard David Foster speaking with our assistant Musical Director to that effect. They seem to need to keep the really big things secret until the last minute for security reasons. I’ll just keep my fingers crossed!
Monday evening the Agape Children’s Choir sing without us at the Children’s Ball hosted by Michelle Obama and Joe Biden.
Tuesday we are confirmed with security passes and all to again sing back up for Will I Am at the official Presidential Inauguration Ceremony. “It’s A New Day” has become the theme song for the event, so we will definitely be a part of the broadcast.
What a whirlwind of activities! I am in the back row of the choir because of my height, but you can’t miss the red hair. I hope you catch more than a glimpse of me in the days to come. I am honored to be a part of this historic event and to share with you my exciting news!