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Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman to join Milli Vanilli?

By Jimmy Orr / January 23, 2009

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Well, classical musicians Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman are not joining the 1980s pop group Milli Vanilli in the literal sense. But they are joining the ranks of Milli Vanilli and other groups who "lip" synced a live performance.

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It was a big gig too. The cellist Ma, along with classic violinist Perlman and two others, performed before Barack Obama took the presidential oath of office on Tuesday.

It sounded great. No one disputes that. What you heard, however, was a recording (see video below).

Cold weather

No, it's not as though they thought they'd get stage fright and end up sounding like a garage band. It was the weather. Try 28 degrees at game time.

And sure, the Green Bay Packers might excel on the frozen tundra in Green Bay, but it's not the same thing for classical musicians. Things can happen with instruments out there in the cold. Strings can snap, instruments can break, and freaky sounds can occur unexpectedly.

So they had to pre-record it.

No other way

Ma wasn't thrilled by this, but he said because the stakes were so high that there was no alternative.

“I really wanted to do something that was absolutely physically and emotionally and, timing-wise, genuine,” Ma told the New York Times. “We also knew we couldn’t have any technical or instrumental malfunction on that occasion. A broken string was not an option. It was wicked cold.” (Ma lives in Massachusetts.)

Perlman put it more bluntly. "It would have been a disaster if we had done it any other way," he said.

Confirmation

Having more knowledge of Milli Vanilli than either Yo Yo Ma or Itzhak Perlman, we turned to more cultured writers like Neil Fisher, the classical music editor the London Times. He confirms the dilemma.

"The delicate workings of the clarinet, cello and violin were not designed to withstand that sort of exposure," writes Fisher. "Funnily enough, the European court orchestras in which these instruments first evolved rarely performed to the masses al fresco."

Well, we knew that. We're not Neanderthals.

Controversy?

Is it causing howls of outrage amongst the people?

Not really. The Washington Post's Joel Achenbach wonders however if there were other fake performances during the Inauguration. Like, perhaps, the whole Inauguration.

"Was that even Obama up there or one of those CNN holograms? How do we know his speech wasn't taped in advance and that he didn't merely lip-sync it," Achenbach wonders.

Fraud

If Achenbach is right, we've got another cover up on our hands. Like the faked moon mission. Or Rick Warren's faux "cone of silence". Or President Obama's real birthplace.

But if the whole thing was a charade, wouldn't Supreme Court Justice John Roberts have requested a do-over during the taping so he wouldn't have had to lug over to the White House to re-administer the oath of office again?

Or was this part of the brilliant disguise?

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