Elton and Stevie to provide Bill and Tony with some aural stimulation

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It is well known in Washington circles that Bill Clinton loves nothing better than a bit of aural stimulation, so tonight he is in for something of a treat. Steve Boggan reports.

As a surprise for his special guest Tony Blair, the President has lined up Elton John and Stevie Wonder for a special White House performance of the duet Ebony and Ivory to conclude day one of the Tony and Bill show.

There has been talk for some time of Elton John performing for Mr Clinton at a star-spangled dinner tonight, but yesterday it emerged that Wonder would also be there to sing the song he made famous with Paul McCartney.

The White House dinner is the hottest ticket in town, with guests including Sting and his wife, Trudie Styler, together with a host of America's rich and famous. Sir Paul, who wrote the number one song in 1982, and his American wife, Linda, were also invited but were not able to attend.

Two pianos are to be set up on the West Terrace, where a half-hour of entertainment is scheduled at the end of what promises to be a lavish dinner.

The President, a keen saxophonist, and the Prime Minister, a guitarist, were rumoured for a while to be considering a jam session but Capricia Marshall, Mr Clinton's social secretary, said talk of Mr Clinton getting his instrument out for a blow was incorrect. It was on everyone's lips until yesterday.

The choice of the duet is not thought to be significant, although the verse - "We all know that people are the same wherever we go/ There is good and bad in everyone/ We learn to live, we learn to give/ each other what we need to survive together alive" - has elements reflecting the President's past week: badness, forgiveness and survival.

"The President wanted to keep the performance as a surprise for Tony but word leaked out from Washington," said a Whitehall source. "It's being seen as a terrific gesture and Tony's really looking forward to it."

It is not clear yet whether Elton John will perform "Candle in the Wind" in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales, but many observers think it unlikely.

He said after her funeral that he did not intend to perform it before a live audience.

Mr Blair flew to Washington on Concorde last night and will start his day today with a breakfast with the Irish congressional lobby before lunch with Mr Clinton and a visit to a school.

Tonight's festivities will begin at 8.45pm, when Mr Clinton will propose the toast and Mr Blair will respond. The tinkling of the ivories will begin at 10.15pm.