Stars arrive to say goodbye to Whitney

Stars arrive to say goodbye to Whitney

Whitney Houston’s flower-covered casket arrived on Saturday at the church where her powerful voice first wowed the congregation, as the biggest names in entertainment solemnly filed in to remember the pop superstar in her hometown.

Mourners at the New Hope Baptist Church fell quiet as three police officers escorted Houston’s silver casket, draped with white roses and purple lilies. White-robed choir members began to fill the pews on the podium. As the band played softly, the choir sang in a hushed voice, “Whitney, Whitney, Whitney.”

Family prepared a service where singer Dionne Warwick, Houston’s cousin, music mogul Clive Davis, who shepherded Houston’s career for decades, actor Kevin Costner and sister-in-law Patricia Houston were to speak. Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, R Kelly and gospel stars CeCe and Bebe Winans were to sing.

Close family friend Aretha Franklin, whom Houston lovingly called “Aunt Ree”, had been expected to sing at the service, but she was too ill to attend.

Singers Chaka Khan, Brandy, Roberta Flack, Jordin Sparks and Jennifer Hudson were among those filling pews. Brandy comforted her brother, Ray-J, a singer who spent time with Houston during her final days.