NEW ORLEANS — As 26 children in white polo shirts excitedly walked to center of the Superdome field and prepared to sing, a packed Super Bowl crowd revved up by a day of partying in the Big Easy fell silent.
The chorus from Sandy Hook Elementary School, nearly two months removed from a deadly shooting rampage, joined Jennifer Hudson to deliver a stirring rendition of America the Beautiful on Sunday that had some players on the sideline and countless fans in the stands on the verge of tears.
Judging by the responses on social media, the performance appeared destined to become one of the most poignant memories of the Super Bowl, regardless of what played out in the game.
“Sandy hook elementary chorus singing America the beautiful and Alicia keys national anthem makes me proud to be American,” model Kate Upton said on her Twitter page.
Gerald Rokoff, standing near a portal in the Superdome’s upper deck, turned and said, “Beyond beautiful,” when the children finished singing.
Sandy Hook is the school in Newtown, Conn., where 20 first-graders and six adults were killed by a gunman on Dec. 14.
An NFL spokesman said no one with the chorus was available for interviews, but a statement was delivered on behalf of the school.
“We have come to New Orleans to represent the Sandy Hook Family and the community of Newtown, Connecticut,” the statement said. “Our wish is to demonstrate to America and the world that, ‘We are Sandy Hook and We Choose Love.’”
The children wore green ribbons on their white shirts, which seemed to symbolize the innocence of youth, and stood in two rows of 13 on the NFL’s red, white and blue shield logo for the performance.
Alicia Keys sat at a piano and belted a beautiful – and slightly long – rendition of the national anthem.
Beyonce sang like she had something to prove at halftime, balancing out the testosterone levels on the football field with a dance-heavy performance that featured her Destiny’s Child band mates and an all-female band.
She emerged onstage singing some of Love on Top, transitioning to her hit Crazy In Love in an all-black ensemble, which matched the dark stage.
Days after admitting to singing to a pre-recorded track at President Barack Obama’s inauguration, she proved herself.
Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams popped up from below the stage to sing Bootylicious. They were in similar outfits, singing and dancing closely as they harmonized. But Rowland and Williams were barely heard when the group sang Independent Woman, as their voices faded into the background.
They also joined in for some of Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It), where Beyonce’s voice grew stronger.
She asked the crowd to put their hands toward her she belted the slow groove Halo on bended knee — and that’s when she the performance hit its high note.