Stars Celebrate Kennedy Center’s 50th Anniversary On PBS

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Kennedy Center at 50 Airs on WTTW on Friday October 1 at 9:00 p.m.

Fifty years ago, what was then the National Cultural Center in Washington, DC opened its opening with a performance by Leonard Bernstein Mass. (You can flux the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performing the Mass at the Ravinia Festival under Bernstein’s protégé Marin Alsop via Great performance.) A year later, Bernstein himself conducted a star-studded gala presented as An American Arts Competition to raise funds for the Center. Everyone from Danny Kaye to Maria Tallchief to Marian Anderson and a very young Yo-Yo Ma took part in a televised concert which was honored by Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy. After Kennedy’s assassination the following year, the Center was renamed the John F. Kennedy Memorial Center for the Performing Arts in his honor.

Now, in a celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Kennedy Center, WTTW and PBS are broadcasting a concert echoing this American historical reenactment of the arts. Hosted by multiple Tony Award winner Audra McDonald and directed and choreographed by Emmy Award winner Joshua Bergasse, the concert took place on September 14 and airs October 1 at 9 p.m. ET. The National Symphony Orchestra, which was part of the original American Pageant, accompanies artists of all genres under the baton of accomplished conductors JoAnn Falletta, Steven Reinecke and Thomas Wilkins. Meet the rest of the artists here.

Elizabeth acevedo

Acevedo is a popular young Dominican-American poet and author who won a National Book Award and cracked the New York Times List of bestsellers with his novel for young adults The poet X.

Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear

Emily Bear (piano) and Abigail Barlow (vocals) performing “Ocean Away” from “The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical” by Barlow and Bear. Photo: Scott Suchman

Bear, twenty, from Rockford, made his piano debut at the Ravinia Festival at the age of five, the youngest performer to ever play there. She released an album produced by Quincy Jones in her early teens and this year teamed up with Barlow to write Bridgerton’s unofficial musical, a series of songs based on Netflix’s romantic series Bridgerton which went viral on TikTok.

The Tasha Barnes

Barnes is a dancer, choreographer and self-proclaimed “bearer of the black American social dance tradition” that covers everything from house music to Lindy Hop.

Ray chen

Chen is a young Taiwanese-Australian violinist who has previously recorded with masters like Christoph Eschenbach, among others.

Darren criss

Criss first found fame with parody A very pottery musical before playing in Joy then embarked on a successful career in Broadway, film and television, most notably in an acclaimed role as serial killer Andrew Cunanan in The assassination of Gianni Versace: American crime story.

Renee fleming

Renée Fleming singing Renée Fleming singing “Spring Waters”, op. 14, n ° 11 by Sergei Rachmaninoff. Photo: Scott Suchman

Fleming hardly needs to be introduced to the Chicago public, given his long association with the Lyric Opera of Chicago. The respected opera singer has also ventured into Broadway and popular genres.

Robert glasper

Glasper is a pianist who grew up in jazz but has long integrated hip-hop, rap and other genres, collaborating with Kendrick Lamar, Common, Erykah Badu and many other artists.

Randall Goosby and Zhu Wang

Goosby is a promising violinist still in his mid-twenties who this year released an album with pianist Wang that focuses on African-American composers, mostly in the classical tradition.

David Henry Hwang and Jeanine Tesori

Hwang is a famous playwright; Tesori, a sought-after composer for the stage. The original cast of their musical Sweet power, who imagines looking at America through the prism of a future Chinese musical, performs for the Kennedy Center anniversary concert.

Joshua Henri

Henry is an actor Chicago audiences may have seen: he played Aaron Burr in the Chicago production of Hamilton.

Keb’Mo ‘

A blues musician who preserves and updates the genre, Keb ‘Mo’ has won multiple Grammy Awards.

Bettye Lavette

The Blues Hall of Famer LaVette had a long and often unrecognized career as a soul singer and songwriter that eventually began to gain critical acclaim in the 2000s.

John and Léo Manzari

John Manzari and Leo Manzari tapping on John Manzari and Leo Manzari tapping “It doesn’t mean nothing (if not that swing)” from Duke Ellington and Irving Mills. Photo: Scott Suchman

The Manzari brothers were taken over by legendary tap dancer Maurice Hines, and were featured on So you think you can dance.

Christian McBride

Jazz bassist McBride has performed with legions of jazz greats as well as stars outside of his genre such as Paul McCartney, Celine Dion, James Brown, and more. In addition, he has won numerous Grammy Awards.

Gaby Moreno

Guatemalan singer-songwriter and guitarist Moreno sings in four different languages ​​and has won a Latin Grammy.

Kelli O’Hara

Broadway star O’Hara received a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical and has also appeared on TV shows like Masters of sex and 13 reasons why as well as at the Metropolitan Opera.

Rachel Prize

Lead singer of the inventive group Lake Street Dive, Price crosses genres in her music.

The Punch Brothers

Speaking of cross-genre: The Punch Brothers, led by virtuoso mandolinist Chris Thile, are nominally a bluegrass quintet, but incorporate everything from classical to jazz to rock into their ambitious music.

Diane reeves

Christian McBride and Dianne Reeves perform Christian McBride and Dianne Reeves perform “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If it Ain’t Got That Swing)” by Duke Ellington and Irving Mills. Photo: Scott Suchman

Grammy-winning jazz singer Reeves has performed and recorded with jazz greats including Herbie Hancock, Freddie Hubbard and Tony Williams on her debut album.

Kelly marie tran

Tran starred in both second films in the new Star Wars film trilogy and voiced Raya in the Disney animated film. Raya and the last dragon.

Cassandra Trenary and Herman Cornejo

Trenary and Cornejo are the principal dancers of the famous American Ballet Theater company.

Mo Willems and Ben Folds

Willems is a beloved children’s book author who has also worked on Sesame Street, while Folds is a pianist, singer and songwriter. The two are associated with the Kennedy Center and are brought together here for a world-first collaboration.

Tony Yazbeck

Yazbeck is another Broadway star who is particularly well known for appearing in Bernstein’s On the city, Find Neverland, and other musicals.


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