BWW Feature: JFK CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION at Kennedy Center Pays Fitting Tribute for JFK's 100th
Memorial Day is a time where we remember the fallen who gave their lives for this country. This past Memorial Day, May 29, 2017, we also remembered President John F. Kennedy on the day of his birth 100 years ago. The JFK Centennial Celebration was the culminating event in a yearlong tribute to the Kennedy Center's namesake.
Think about what JFK did for this country in his short time in office. He was a champion for disability and other civil rights, equal pay for women, created the Peace Corps, and of course was a huge lover of the arts. We cannot. of course, forget all of his inspiring speeches either and quotes like "Ask not what this country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."
The Kennedy Center took everything that was great about JFK and turned it into a fitting tribute featuring performers from many artistic disciplines. People such as Brian Dennehy, Renée Fleming, Taylor Mac, Martin Sheen, and Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter took to the stage of the Opera House to recite and reflect on passages from JFK's most memorable speeches. Projections and video from JFK's career were prominently displayed during the recitations. The class kicked up a notch with an introductory video message from former First Lady Michelle Obama.
JFK was a huge lover of our country and saw all the possibilities within it. To that end, it was only fitting that a standout performance featured New York City Ballet dancers Tiler Peck and Joaquin De Luz dancing a section from Stars and Stripes. The whole ballet is made up of marches by John Philip Sousa, orchestrated and adapted for ballet by veteran arranger/orchestrator Hershey Kay and choreographed by George Balanchine.
JFK'S commitment to civil rights and desegregation was illustrated in the most powerful way possible with Grammy award winning pianist Jason Moran's performance of "Selma Suites."
Taylor Mac's performance of "Hard Rain's Gonna Fall," accompanied by Jason Moran, illustrated the hurdles JFK faced during his presidency. He had to make tough and unpopular decisions, but he knew they would be the right ones for the country.
Christopher Jackson's words on JFK's stance on civil rights turned in to a strong vocal performance of the spiritual "Lift Every Voice and Sing."
The Voices of Inspiration choir, with a medley of Americana classics set the tone for the whole concert. "Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor," "My Country 'tis of Thee," and "America the Beautiful" illustrate JFK's principles of Courage, Justice, Freedom, Service, and Gratitude beautifully. These are the types of things that made and make America great!!
Maybe we need to forget about everything happening now with #45 and as Broadway's Jenni Barber and Claybourne Elder sang, "Move On" with what JFK wanted for this country. He wanted a place where we all could live together and do great things.
Director Gregory Mosher and company spent this Memorial Day doing just that. I applaud the Kennedy Center for being a living memorial to this great humanitarian and president and hope we can all carry out the dreams JFK never lived to see in his short lifetime.