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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Kennedy Center Honorees Hosted at White House Reception

This year's honorees include singer Barbara Cook, singer and songwriter Neil Diamond, cellist Yo-Yo Ma (an Obama favorite), saxophonist and composer Sonny Rollins, and actress Meryl Streep.

Rollins received a National Medal of Arts and National Humanities medal award from President Obama last year. Ma received the Medal of Freedom award from the president.  (Click links for our coverage).

In tradition, President Obama and First Lady Michelle hosted the honorees at a White House reception.

"So, each of them have made these extraordinary contributions, and it's worthwhile, then, for us to commit ourselves to making this a place where the arts can continue to thrive", said President Obama, promoting the Arts.  "Because right now, somewhere in America, there is a future Kennedy Center honoree, practicing on some phone books, or writing songs to impress a girl, or wondering if she can cut it on the big stage.  Let's make sure our young people can dream big dreams, and follow them as far as they can go.  And let's make sure the arts continue to be an important, no, a critical part of who we are in the kind of world that we want to live in."

President Obama and First Lady Michelle set to greet, and host,
Kennedy Center honorees. Photo/Pete Souza (White House photog).
Per White House pooler Donovan Slack (of the Globe) a few of the attendees cited included Representative Nancy Pelosi, Motown's Smokey Robinson (2006 honoree), Vicki Kennedy, Jean Kennedy Smith,  Caroline Kennedy, actress Christine Baranski, actor Stanley Tucci (Devil Wears Prada, Julie and Julia), actress Michelle Lee (Knots Landing), Rahm Emanuel and Amy Rule, composer Sir Andre Previn, David Axelrod, Rep John Mica (R-FL), violinist Itzhak Perlman, Robert DeNiro, Florence Henderson (Brady Bunch), Sara Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood, Diane Sawyer, actor John Krasinski (The Office) and Emily Blunt, john Lithgow, CBS' Julie Chen and Les Moonves. 

The Kennedy Center's web site sums up the Honors this way:

"This year, the Kennedy Center celebrates its 40th anniversary by selecting five extraordinary individuals whose collective artistry has contributed significantly to the cultural life of our nation and the world," said Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein. "With her sublime voice and rich performances, Barbara Cook has defined all that is best and brightest in the Great American Songbook. Neil Diamond’s songwriting genius has created one of the most enduring catalogs of American popular music and his live performances have captivated audiences for five decades. Yo-Yo Ma’s sterling musicianship makes him one of the most versatile and popular classical music performers in the world and his Silk Road Project has inspired students across the world to love and honor music. Saxophonist Sonny Rollins’ masterful improvisation and powerful presence have infused the truly American art form of jazz with passion and energy. The sheer brilliance and breadth of Meryl Streep’s performances count as one of the most exhilarating cultural spectacles of our time."

Past Honors recipients, as well as members of the Kennedy Center’s national artists committee, made recommendations of possible 2011 Honorees. Artists making recommendations included: Christine Baranski, Harolyn Blackwell, Glenn Close, Denyce Graves, Paloma Herrera, Bill Irwin, Evgeny Kissin, Patti LuPone, Sarah Jessica Parker, and James Taylor. Previous Kennedy Center Honorees, including Julie Andrews, Dave Brubeck, Carol Burnett, Pl├ícido Domingo, Steve Martin, Jack Nicholson, Jessye Norman, Stephen Sondheim, Steven Spielberg, and Stevie Wonder also made nominations.

The Kennedy Center should honor our First Lady for
 looking so marvelous in that Vera Wang gown.  Truly a vision of Art.

The 2010 honorees included Oprah Winfrey, ex Beatle Paul McCartney, choreographer Bill T. Jones, and musician Jerry Herman.

The Honors Gala will be recorded for broadcast on the CBS Network for the 34th consecutive year as a two-hour primetime special on Tuesday, December 27 at 9:00 p.m.

Speaking of the Kennedy Center...

We would be remiss if we didn't mention last week's tribute to Nat King Cole, and performance of one of our favorite musicians, Mr. George Benson.  He was fabulous, looked handsome, and sounded just like the jazzy, funky, rhythmic George Benson of our early remembrance. The Grammy winning artist, who performed not only the work of Cole, also gave an audience pleasing fifteen minute 'Benson party' concert of his own masterpieces to include Masquerade, Nature Boy, and To Be Loved.

Simply an amazing artist (who should be invited to the White House to perform).

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