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HomeEntertainmentKennedy Heart Honors: Music-centric tributes hit all the appropriate notes

Kennedy Heart Honors: Music-centric tributes hit all the appropriate notes


After 5 lengthy years, the Kennedy Heart Honors are lastly again in full power. How can we be certain? As a result of virtually nobody talked about its return to regular throughout a weekend of festivities that culminated Sunday in a barely greater than three-hour ceremony celebrating 5 new honorees.

Actually, the one point out of the previous 5 years on the forty fifth annual Kennedy Heart Honors, which will probably be broadcast Dec. 28 on CBS, got here from Sacha Baron Cohen. Whereas talking in character as fictional Kazakh journalist Borat, the actor/comic made remarks that arguably stretched the viewers’s consolation zone: “I’m instructed president of U.S. and A. is right here. The place are you, Mr. Trump?” Wait, Borat? We’ll get to him. We promise.

This time final yr, Washington Put up theater critic Peter Marks hailed the ceremony, which featured a star-studded crowd in black tie and masks, as a “return to one thing like regular.” This yr we will lower the “one thing like.” And certainly, President Biden and first girl Jill Biden had been again for a second yr after 4 “first couple”-less years due to a presidential boycott throughout the Trump years and the following pandemic, which led to a largely digital present for the 2020 awards (held in Might 2021). Becoming a member of them had been Vice President Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff. Saturday’s medallion ceremony was again in its correct place on the State Division after being on the Library of Congress final yr. And everybody — we imply everybody — appeared to be within the temper to have fun.

Fortunately for them, the ceremony — held within the arts middle’s 2,364-seat Opera Home and honoring actor, filmmaker and philanthropist George Clooney; modern Christian music sensation-turned-pop-star Amy Grant; the “Empress of Soul,” singer Gladys Knight; Irish rock band U2 (Bono, the Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr.); and Cuban American composer-conductor Tania León — was, naturally, a largely musical affair.

Have a look round when the Pips had been cooing or the Highwomen had been belting, and also you had been more likely to see somebody acquainted clapping alongside, be it Anthony S. Fauci, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), actor Laurence Fishburne, Biden adviser Mitch Landrieu or, after all, the president — you identify it.

The evening proceeded like clockwork. The nominees had been praised in 5 segments, every that includes a semi-biographical video with notable voice-overs (actor Brad Pitt for Clooney, critic Wesley Morris for Knight), clips from Saturday’s medallion ceremony, a couple of audio system and a few (normally musical!) set items.

Celebration of the 61-year-old Clooney, as the one nonmusical artist honored, proved the exception. It started with a humorous introduction by former honorees Massive Chook and jazz legend Herbie Hancock — a wierd pair certain, however like peanut butter and pickles, it labored. As Hancock stated, “The Kennedy Heart is a spot for everyone who lives in America — even birds.”

Julia Roberts, ever the fashionista, took the stage in a costume embellished with an uncommon sample — all photos of Clooney — and dubbed her good friend a “Renaissance man.” The display screen then lifted to disclose a set re-creating an outdated barroom. On the small tables, sipping cocktails, sat Roberts together with actors Richard Sort, Don Cheadle, Matt Damon and, most notably, Clooney’s father, Nick. After Dianne Reeves carried out a music from the 2005 film “Good Night time, and Good Luck,” which Clooney wrote and directed, every stood to offer a brief monologue in regards to the actor.

Cheadle praised Clooney’s humanitarian work, notably (he stated half-winkingly) marrying Amal Alamuddin and beginning the Clooney Basis for Justice. Sort mentioned the honoree’s lengthy journey to stardom, expressing pleasure of what’s to return. Damon talked about that Clooney is usually referred to as “the final true film star,” which struck him as incorrect given Clooney’s penchant for sensible jokes.

Clooney’s father, although, instructed a touching story in regards to the day the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Nick Clooney was internet hosting a tv present on the time, and, as he was making ready a speech in regards to the tragic day, his 7-year-old son walked into the room with a bag stuffed with his toy weapons. He didn’t need them anymore. Nick ripped up the speech. What may very well be extra eloquent, in any case.

The remainder of the night required dancing footwear — or at the very least slightly seat-dancing. An indication studying “Gladys” in lights hung above the set for Knight, 78, the place the Pips had been joined by Garth Brooks for “Midnight Practice to Georgia”; Mickey Guyton for “Finest Factor That Ever Occurred to Me”; and Ariana DeBose for a heck of a rockin’ model of “I Heard It By means of the Grapevine.” The Pips left the stage as Patti LaBelle sauntered on and referred to as Brooks, Guyton and DeBose again for a touching rendition of “That’s What Associates Are For.”

Journalist Katie Couric launched Grant’s phase, calling her music the “excellent elixir for a troubled time and troubled souls” earlier than performances by Sheryl Crow and the Highwomen (Brandi Carlile, Natalie Hemby, Maren Morris and Amanda Shires) earlier than gospel singers BeBe & CeCe Winans belted out “Sing Your Reward to the Lord.”

Earlier honoree Carmen de Lavallade launched the tribute to 79-year-old composer León, who left Cuba as a 24-year-old refugee and was receiving this award just one yr after incomes the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in music. It featured a number of performances, together with vocalist Alicia Corridor Moran’s resounding tackle “Oh Yemanja” from the opera “Scourge of the Hyacinths” and a rendition of León’s Pulitzer-winning composition, “Stride,” by the Kennedy Heart Honors Orchestra, members of the Sphinx Group, cellist Joe Kwon of Avett Brothers and conductor Jeri Lynne Johnson. Actress Anna Deavere Smith narrated the story of León’s life story from Cuba to america, detailing such moments of significance as Leonard Bernstein discovering her at Tanglewood.

The evening ended with reward for the Irish rock band U2, identified for its anthemic rock tunes, receiving the respect on the verge of its fifth decade collectively. Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder took the stage to play covers of “Elevation” and “One,” and Sean Penn provided a touching speech in regards to the band’s prolific philanthropy. However the showstopping second (for good or unwell, relying in your private structure) was in all probability Cohen, reprising his Borat character to reward the band “by the identify of Me 2.”

“Please take away your wretched album from my iPhone 6,” Borat implored, later including one other request: “Your band combat oppressions from world wide. Cease it!”

The irreverent jokes stored the group flippantly chuckling, the ultimate phase that includes Ukrainian singer-songwriter Jamala, Irish musician Hozier and Carlile singing U2′s “Stroll On” as many different performers from the night — together with Morris, Reeves, Guyton and Crow — joined in to shut out the occasion with a observe of exuberant pleasure.

On Saturday, the honorees had gathered on the State Division with a gaggle of particular visitors — a mix of political and inventive stars — to share a dinner and obtain their medallions. Nobody, although, was given a extra beneficiant welcome than a behatted Paul Pelosi, who obtained a thunderous standing ovation. He joined his spouse, Home Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), on the dinner, and once more at Sunday’s ceremony, in a few his first public appearances after being attacked throughout a house invasion on the finish of October.

Underlying the cheerful nature of Saturday evening’s ceremony was a robust message of the significance of the humanities to the worldwide group. In his welcoming remarks, Secretary of State Antony Blinken referred to artists of all stripes as “diplomats” and stated, “You don’t want to talk English to really feel one thing if you take heed to ‘Midnight Practice to Georgia.’ ” Brooks echoed the sentiment, saying, “Artwork not solely connects us, it binds us.”

The honorees obtained tailor-made toasts from varied celebrities. Of observe was Roberts, whose outfit once more performed a component in her reward. She donned a inexperienced costume, learn a self-written limerick to U2 and invited the quartet onstage for an intimate toast of black velvets — Guinness combined with champagne. She added that at 55, she’s been fortunate to “by no means know a life with out their music.”

The honorees, who didn’t converse throughout Sunday’s ceremony, then every provided a couple of phrases of their very own, all hammering house the purpose of artwork as a communal good, one thing that brings us collectively.

Clooney, in the meantime, reiterated the evening’s theme of art-as-togetherness, joking that he’s traveled the world and everybody agrees on one factor: “You sucked as Batman.”

Sonia Rao contributed to this report.



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