Pianist to perform at White House

Bellagio pianist David Osborne will perform a 2½-hour concert at the White House on Dec. 21, and he's giving us a peek at the holiday songs first lady Michelle Obama requested.

She asked him to play "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)," "Sleigh Ride," Johann Pachelbel's "Canon in D," Adele's "Someone Like You," and Stevie Wonder's "Overjoyed" and "Ribbon in the Sky."

With those pop songs, Obama's taste in holiday songs -- sentimental yet regal -- is more contemporary than her predecessors.

When Osborne played for Laura Bush, she was fond of "O Come All Ye Faithful" and "Little Town of Bethlehem."

When he plays for Rosalynn Carter (he's friends with Jimmy Carter, who asked him to play at his funeral someday), Rosalynn has gone for "Little Town of Bethlehem" and "O Holy Night."

And Hillary Clinton once playfully asked Osborne to guess her holiday song choice.

"I bet you don't know my favorite song," Clinton said to Osborne.

" 'Carol of the Bells'?" Osborne said.

"Bingo!" Clinton said.

Osborne says he guessed correctly because it seemed like an almost new-agey Christian carol that fit her energizing spirit.

All the first ladies have been very nice, he says. Obama, for her part, is "very warm and affectionate."

"She likes to grab you and hug you. She's a really nice lady," he says.

Last year, Obama asked guests to write their Christmas wishes on paper and put the paper in holes in a wishing tree.

Osborne's wish was for the end of the Iraq war and to bring the troops home.

"I'm a dove," he says.

Osborne also is rehearsing Hanukkah songs.

Last year, Osborne gigged Britney Spears' birthday party. She dug Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" and Debussy's "Claire de Lune."

"She said she liked to meditate to 'Claire de Lune,' " Osborne says.

As a Madonna fan, Spears enjoyed Osborne's arrangement of "Take a Bow" so much, she asked him to play it again.

She played piano, too.

"She is actually quite a good pianist herself," Osborne says.

Uh, what?

"She played amazingly well," he says.

Spears did a few of her own songs on piano, plus "As Time Goes By" and Disney staples "Beauty and the Beast" and "When You Wish Upon A Star."

But back to holiday songs: Johnny Mathis asked Osborne at the Bellagio to play "(There's No Place Like) Home for the Holidays" -- twice in a row -- because he was friends with the composers, who also wrote Mathis' "Chances Are."

George Burns got Osborne to do "Sleigh Ride" in Orlando.

And Robert and Vera Goulet joined Osborne at the Bellagio, where Robert sang "O Holy Night" to Osborne's accompaniment. That's one of Osborne's favorites, for the arpeggios and the minor keys falling during the awesome part that goes, "hear the angels' voices."

But his favorite might simply be "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." My favorite is "I'll Be Home for Christmas." It kills me. Although, I requested he do Mariah Carey's happier "All I Want for Christmas Is You."

Anyway, Osborne -- who holds master's degrees in piano and pipe organ -- will mix in holiday songs during his sets Thursday-Saturday at the Bellagio.

The White House said he and his wife, Jeannine, should bring a couple. He chose Army Sgt. First Class Lon Brouse, who served 13 years and left on disability severance because of injuries, and Brouse's wife.

He knows Brouse because ... Osborne's wife once dated Brouse.

"I'm not a jealous kind. Hell, she dated him 20 years ago," Osborne says. "Besides, he's just such a great guy."

Doug Elfman's column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Email him at delfman@reviewjournal.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.


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