The boos during Mitt Romney's speech to the NAACP on Wednesday grabbed most of the headlines, but many TV viewers watching his address to the civil rights group were jarred by another sound: a persistent church organ.
"I do love that music, I have to tell you," Romney said as he took the stage. It would swell to punctuate his remarks over the course of his 25-minute speech, and many on Twitter joked about the incongruity they saw in having black church music accompany the Republican nominee.
So what was up with the church music? It's a staple at the NAACP convention for all the big speakers, according to Derek Turner, a spokesman for the organization. "It happens at every speech, and as the organist sees fit," he said.
For the last 19 years, that organist has been Rev. Ronald Terry, the pastor of New Fellowship Baptist Church in Macon, Ga.
"When they make a point and it speaks to the people, I try to accentuate it with a little organ rumble there," said Terry, who is 70. "It keeps the crowd excited."
Terry has played organ to accompany the last three presidents, and he said he has complete discretion in deciding what to play for those VIPs. He usually opts for something patriotic. For Romney, he chose "God Bless America." (When President Obama addressed the convention in 2010, Terry opted for "We Shall Overcome" for his intro, and the civil rights anthem "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around" when he exited.)
Terry didn't play for Joe Biden on Thursday, though. The vice president's people told him they had their own music.
When told about the stir his playing caused online, Terry laughed heartily. "Well, I'm just playing like I normally do," he said. "[The organ is] our kind of way of saying that 'We at the NAACP accept you.'"
SUBSCRIBE AND FOLLOW
Get top stories and blog posts emailed to me each day. Newsletters may offer personalized content or advertisements.Learn more