Aires perform for Obama at White House

| 12/18/11 11:00pm

The Dartmouth Aires did not let the temperate climate of Washington, D.C., preclude them from celebrating an early "white" Christmas on Friday, 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 when he interned 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 Friday's party.

Many of Obama's close friends, the entire White House staff and decorated U.S. soldiers returning from war were among the guests on Friday, 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. It really is incredible."

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," Clark Moore '13 said.

The Aires are finishing their winter tour in Baltimore, having travelled throughout the Northeast to New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Connecticut.

"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, you could see them singing along to the Dartmouth Alma Mater," Odokara-Okigbo said.

The winter tour was one of the first times that the six freshmen members of the Aires have performed with the whole group.

"There is a level of trust in each other that comes from being really good friends and being able to lean on each other in any performance situation," Ethan Weinberg '12 said. "[Singing at the White House] was a wonderful experience and we're very proud. I still can't really believe it happened."

Many Aires members said they are ready to spend the holidays with their families and are 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," Weinberg said.