Super Bowl Sunday is traditionally filled with lighthearted fun--last-minute pregame bets, clever commercials, and a spectacular halftime show. However, the ordinarily upbeat event took a touching, somber turn this year when Grammy-winning singer Jennifer Hudson performed a pregame rendition of "America The Beautiful" accompanied by the Sandy Hook Chorus--which is composed of children who attended the Newtown, Conn. school that fell prey to a devastating shooting rampage in December.
Football stars on both teams looked visibly moved by the tribute, which was executed flawlessly by both the smiling children and Hudson--the latter who filled the stadium with her Aretha Franklin-like powerful vocals. Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh watched solemnly with one arm around his 11-year-old daughter, Alison.
Twenty-six survivors of the tragedy were flown to New Orleans this week and put up in a hotel by the National Football League prior to the big game. The Sandy Hook Chorus has also recorded a version of "Over the Rainbow" to support the United Way of Western Connecticut and Newtown Youth Academy charities.
The performance with the children was no doubt deeply poignant for Hudson, who has her own tragic and well-publicized history with gun violence. In 2008, the singer lost her mother, brother, and 7-year-old nephew in a shooting conducted by Hudson's estranged brother-in-law.
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William Balfour, who was married to Hudson's older sister Julia, was convicted of the murders in 2012 and is currently in prison serving multiple life sentences without possibility of parole. Hudson and her sister jointly offered prayers for Balfour and his family in a public statement following his conviction.
Hudson has a history of delivering unifying and moving performances in the wake of tragedy. At last year's Grammy Awards, she sang a deeply affecting rendition of "I Will Always Love You" to honor the late Whitney Houston, who had passed away just before the awards at the age of 48.
Super Bowl XLVII, in which the San Francisco 49ers faced off against the Baltimore Ravens, kicked off at 6:30 p.m. ET in New Orleans' Mercedes-Benz Superdome.