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Working the Wrong Notes and Missteps Out

By Michael E. Ruane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 10, 2009

The weather is expected to be fittingly cold for tomorrow's full-scale inauguration rehearsal.

There will be much of the pomp and ceremony and a lot of the celebratory music -- if it's not too cold -- but only stand-ins for the VIPs as the inaugural committees stage a dry run of the swearing-in ceremony at the west front of the Capitol and the parade along Pennsylvania Avenue.

The rehearsal is open to the public, but it starts early, about 7 a.m. at the Capitol and 8 a.m. on the avenue. It will run two or three hours.

Officials said about 5,000 participants and numerous military bands and other units will rehearse their routines. The Old Guard salute artillery battery will fire from Taft Park, north of the Capitol, but only the first and last shots of the traditional 21.

The idea is to test almost every aspect of the inauguration to make sure all goes well Jan. 20.

The elite U.S. Marine Band will be on hand and is expected to play the swearing-in ceremonial music, including "Hail to the Chief," officials have said, and will probably play as the rehearsal moves along the Pennsylvania Avenue parade route.

The 99-piece U.S. Army Field Band, which leads the first division of the parade, also will be on hand, along with an Army fife and drum corps and bands from the Navy and Air Force. "Most of the military participants will be rehearsing," said Navy Lt. Mike Billips, a spokesman for the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee.

He said Dunbar Senior High School's Crimson Tide Marching Pride band, one of the school groups invited to march in the parade, also will participate. "They want to rehearse with us," he said.

Military officials said the plan is to practice the swearing-in program twice tomorrow -- once with pauses to correct mistakes and the second time without stopping.

Some parts of the rehearsal might be in restricted areas of the Capitol grounds and hard to see, officials said. But the event traditionally is open to the public.

The 5,000 tickets for bleacher seats along the Jan. 20 parade route sold out minutes after they went on sale at 1 p.m. yesterday. But plenty of free standing room also will be available along the route on Inauguration Day. The 240,000 tickets to the swearing-in are spoken for, but the bulk of the Mall will be open for non-ticketed viewing and served by banks of giant video screens.

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