21 January 2008

Martin Luther King Tribute at the Kennedy Center

So I left my house early and made my way to Foggy Bottom Metro Station where I’d be picked up by the shuttle bus to the Kennedy Center. The shuttle runs every 15 minutes. After waiting for 30, I reread the sign. The shuttle runs all day everyday except for federal holidays. Slap myself on the forehead, today is a federal holiday. I, who am often late to my destinations had been proud of myself this morning for leaving early, and now was going to be late anyway. Grr! By the time I took an alternate route, I arrived one hour late. Grr!! Thankfully, I hadn’t missed anything.

I’d wondered why we had to be there at eleven in the morning when the program wouldn’t be until six. What were we going to do for six hours? Well, we had breakfast, rehearsed in the practice room, then rehearsed with the soloists and orchestra out on stage, then rehearsed just with the orchestra, had lunch, received instructions, got our robes and got ready to go on stage.

I’ve been in that building many times before, so I know that it’s large. I wasn’t aware of how large until we had to walk from the practice room to the stage and back. It was the most labyrinthine route of hallways and staircases ever. If we didn’t have a guide leading us around, we would have taken days to make it out of there. I was dying to take photos of everything, but I wasn’t sure if I was allowed, so all I have is a couple shots of us getting on this enormous freight elevator (40 at a time, moo!) which was clearly marked NO PASSENGERS, ha-ha.

The program itself was a success. I could have done without the 35 minutes of speeches, but what can one do? We sang:

All Good Things Will Be Added Unto You (with soloist)
The Battle Him of the Republic (with soloists)
Done Made My Vow [my personal favorite]
We Shall Overcome

Mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves sang four Negro spirituals of her own (she wore a gorgeous gown I can't even begin to describe) and violin duo Nuttin’ but Stringz played a couple pieces.

When we sang We Shall Overcome I was looking out into the audience and saw a man whose white hair reminded me of my father. The thought of him being there listening to me live, along with the emotion of the words we were singing and the very lush orchestral accompaniment made my eyes well up with tears. Most of the pieces were arranged and orchestrated by Nolan Williams, Jr, our director. He is talented, professional, witty and handsome, to boot. I was very impressed by him. If he has all this going on and he only in his 30s, watch out world!

We had a wonderful time and the audience loved every minute of it. Hopefully I can participate again next year.

As soon as the program is available for viewing I will add a link so you can watch the video.

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