Aretha Franklin to Perform at Houston Funeral: Source

The funeral will be invitation-only, organizers said.

By Brian Thompson
|  Thursday, Feb 16, 2012  |  Updated 6:46 AM EDT
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The family of Whitney Houston has opted to hold a final farewell at Newark's New Hope Baptist Church, but fans in the New Jersey city where Houston was born are upset over the lack of a public service. Katy Tur reports.

NBC New York

The family of Whitney Houston has opted to hold a final farewell at Newark's New Hope Baptist Church, but fans in the New Jersey city where Houston was born are upset over the lack of a public service. Katy Tur reports.

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Aretha Franklin will perform at the private, invitation-only funeral for her goddaughter Whitney Houston in New Jersey this weekend, a source involved with the arrangements tells NBC New York.

Houston will be laid to rest after the funeral Saturday at the Newark church where she sang in the choir as a child.

The noon service at New Hope Baptist Church will be closed to the public and to media, though thousands of fans are expected to honor Houston with a makeshift memorial outside the church grounds.

And organizers say one pool camera will be allowed inside, giving fans around the world the opportunity to watch a live feed. NBC 4 New York is planning to carry that livestream here on Saturday.

The 18,000-seat Prudential Center had been planned as a setting for a public memorial, but the family decided to keep services private, a source confirmed to NBC New York on Tuesday.

"Whitney has shared her entire life with the public. This is her final farewell. Let her family share that time with her," said Carolyn Whigham, owner of the funeral home handling the arrangements.

Gospel singer Marvin L. Winans, a longtime friend of Houston, will deliver the eulogy, the Rev. Joe Carter told NBC New York.

Carter said the Houston family was planning a service that would be "very musical" and a "joyful celebration of life." 

"We're looking to help the family grieve and mourn the loss, and at the same time, add some joy to this very sad, sad moment," he added.

The church seats about 1,500. Gov. Chris Christie said flags will fly at half-staff throughout the state on Saturday.

The Prudential Center showed Houston's face in lights Monday night as a tribute to the singer, who was found dead in a hotel room in Los Angeles Saturday.

Church officials acknowledged on Tuesday that they are expecting fans to flood the streets around the church.

"I don't see how we can avoid that," Carter said. "Everybody loved Whitney."

The singer's body was flown to New Jersey by private plane Monday evening and arrived at Teterboro Airport just before 11 p.m.

A police escort traveled with Houston's body to the Whigham Funeral Home.

Houston was born in Newark and raised in East Orange. Many said she never forgot her Jersey roots.

Her mother, Grammy award-winning gospel singer Cissy Houston, led the musical program at New Hope Baptist Church. Whitney's cousin, singer Dionne Warwick, also sang in its choir.

Mourners flocked to the 112-year-old church after the news of her death over the weekend.

Houston's family is asking that any donations in her memory be sent to the arts-focused public school in East Orange she attended as a child, which is now named after her. Contact information for the school can be found here.

Full Whitney Houston coverage here. 

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