The annual Kennedy Center Honors Gala, which took place on December 8, 2013, will be televised Sunday December 29 on CBS. The celebration honors five outstanding people from the performing arts industry each year and this marks the 36th occasion for the event. Likened to a command performance for the Queen of England, this is no ordinary award show. The recipients are long time masters of their craft who have shown excellence and artistic achievement in their field for decades.
The Kennedy Center Honors Gala is almost an all day affair beginning with a social hour at the White House before the awards ceremony and show, followed by dinner and dancing. Limos, gowns and tuxes are in full array for this very special gathering of dignitaries and well known celebrities. A recipient of this award is most honored to be chosen and has the pleasure of sitting with the President and First Lady during the show. A smaller ceremony took place at the White House on December 7 where all honorees were presented with medallions for their achievement.
This year’s honorees include musicians Martina Arroyo, Billy Joel, Herbie Hancock and Carlos Santana, and actress Shirley MacLaine. Caroline Kennedy did not fly in from her post in Japan to host as she usually does, but has always been an active part of the honors from years past. Hosting in her absence was actress Glenn Close. To give things an air of fairness and even keel, Fox News host Bill O’ Reilly and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor were also presenters. Sotomayor has also been chosen to push the button to release the ball in Times Square on New Year’s Eve.
The event takes place on the Kennedy Center Opera House stage and is an extravaganza of talent in all forms. Each year, tributes and special songs give the theatre an aura of warmth, while recognition of talented artists can easily bring an unexpected tear to the eye. Taking place during the holiday season makes it even more special and CBS does an outstanding job of producing the show.
The Kennedy Center Honors include Martina Arroyo, an opera star of worldwide fame and versatility. The 76 year old native of Harlem has been performing professionally before thousands since she was young. Billy Joel is the youngest recipient at age 64 and is a master song-writer and pianist. He toured with Elton John, a previous honoree, in 1994 and has produced a string of recognizable hits over the years. Herbie Hancock, age 73, is famous for his amazing blend of soul, blues, funk and jazz music. Trained as a child in classical piano, he developed an ear for jazz and started creating his own tunes to entertain the world.
Carlos Santana, from Mexico, seems to have been around forever as one of the greatest guitarists of all time. His run with fame took off, back in the days of Woodstock, and the 66 year old has not lost his love for loud shirts and fantastic musical trends. Shirley MacLaine, the long established motion picture actress, has waited a while to be honored as she has continued her brilliant acting career in recent times with Downton Abbey and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. MacLaine, age 79, is best know for movies such as Steel Magnolias, Postcards From the Edge and Terms of Endearment.
The honorees are chosen by a combination of votes and recommendations from the Kennedy Center’s board of trustees, past recipients and public suggestions. Even though taped previously, the show being televised on December 29 will be full of special highlights and memorable moments. For the artists who do what they love by playing music, singing, dancing or acting, to be honored with such recognition is worth more than words can express. Five outstanding performers being honored at the Kennedy Center is entertainment at its finest.
By: Roanne H. FitzGibbon