Kennedy Center: Perfect Prelude

Classic Arts Features   Kennedy Center: Perfect Prelude
Kicking off August 30, the Kennedy Center celebrates the new season with more than a month of music, theater, dance, and various events for all ages.

Celebrating its 37th birthday, the Kennedy Center launches the 2008 _2009 season with Prelude 2008: Arts Across America from August 30 through October 5. This also marks the 50th anniversary of the National Cultural Center Act signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and the reopening of the renovated theater named in his honor. Highlighting the diversity of the United States, the multidisciplinary program Arts Across America enlists talents from every region and all 50 states in our nation: American masters, bearers of tradition, and young innovators developing their craft. There are more than 35 days of special performances, events, and activities for the whole family, including many free and low-cost performances in keeping with the Center's Performing Arts for Everyone initiative.

National Symphony Orchestra
Classical and Pops enthusiasts will have a number of National Symphony Orchestra performances to choose from during the month.

Guest conductor and host Richard Kaufman leads the Orchestra in a new series, Nights at the Movies, performing film score favorites with projected images. On September 11, they visit Classical Hollywood in a concert featuring Disney's Sleeping Beauty, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Godfather, and more. On September 12, they explore The Golden Age of Film Music in selections from Lawrence of Arabia, Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, and more.

Celebrated American folk artist Arlo Guthrie was born with a guitar in one hand and a harmonica in the other. On September 18, he joins guest conductor John Nardolillo and the NSO Pops for a one-night-only music event in the Concert Hall. With his release of "Alice's Restaurant" in 1967, Guthrie helped foster a new commitment among the '60s generation to social consciousness and activism. More than four decades later, he has performed more than 40 concerts with 27 different symphony orchestras throughout the U.S.

September 25 _27, Marvin Hamlisch and the NSO Pops are joined by singer Linda Eder for Linda Eder Sings Judy Garland. Eder's career has been built on a strong Broadway base (Jekyll & Hyde) but reaches far beyond it. She possesses one of the greatest contemporary solo voices of our time and, as with many other female vocalists, she cites the legendary Judy Garland as a major influence. Performing from her hit album By Myself, which showcases Garland's most famous songs, Eder pays tribute to her musical idol, capturing the contrasting strength and fragility of Judy's voice while making the timeless music her own.

The joy of gospel meets the soul of New Orleans when two of America's greatest cultural ambassadors join forces for Down by the Riverside. Vocal legends The Blind Boys of Alabama are the Iron Men of the music industry. They predate Elvis, Little Richard, and Al Green, but even in their 70s, they continue to top the gospel charts and win Grammy Awards, four consecutive and counting. For nearly half a century, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band has been bridging present-day sounds with the ageless traditions of New Orleans jazz. No matter where these National Medal of Arts recipients play, audiences are immediately transported to their storefront home, just around the corner from Bourbon Street. September 28 in the Concert Hall, these two legendary groups carry their proud musical traditions forward.

A consummate artist: musician, emcee, vocalist, producer, and actor of stage and screen: Mos Def produced by Jill Newman Productions premiered his acoustic project in 2003, and the Mos Def Big Band in January 2007, drawing from original compositions and material by Miles Davis, Beyonc_, James Brown, and Gil Scott-Heron, among others. Always bending genres to create his own sound, Mos lithely flows among hip hop, jazz, and soul while fronting his orchestra of savvy musicians. His face is as familiar as his sound; his acting credits include Be Kind Rewind, 16 Blocks, Something the Lord Made, Lackawanna Blues, and Top Dog/Underdog. He performs September 21 in the Concert Hall.

After portraying Big Joe Turner in Robert Altman's movie Kansas City, award-winning baritone Kevin Mahogany opens the new KC Jazz Club season on September 26 with Kansas City Revue, a rousing tribute to his native city's musical heritage. The Godfathers of Groove: the revered Hammond B-3, guitar, and percussion trio: along with acclaimed vocalist Kathy Kosins join Mahogany for songs affiliated with the Kansas City sound, as composed or performed by Charlie Parker, Count Basie, Jimmy Rushing, Joe Williams, and other greats.

West Coast trumpeter Jeremy Pelt has been voted a Rising Star five years in a row by DownBeat Magazine. Now headlining his first KC Jazz Club concert on October 3, he has also been lauded for his rhythm and tone, which "strikes a warm balance between brightness and suffusion" (All About Jazz). Pelt's new MaxJazz CD November, released summer 2008 and featuring his quintet, is his return to the acoustic format.

The Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Series for Artistic Excellence is proud to present the opening season of the newly renovated Eisenhower Theater after nearly 18 months of renovations.

The Eisenhower Theater reopens its doors October 2 _5 with Broadway: Three Generations. The performance is a grand celebration of three generations of Broadway composers, and the progression of the art form, featuring abridged versions of three musicals: Girl Crazy, Bye, Bye Birdie, and Side Show.

Adapted by Steve Lawson from the correspondences of Tennessee Williams between 1945 and 1957, Blanche and Beyond is the "sequel" to A Distant Country Called Youth, staged during the Kennedy Center's Tennessee Williams Explored festival in 2004. Emmy winner Richard Thomas (Twelve Angry Men, TV's "The Waltons") reprises his role in this acclaimed one-man performance, September 24 _26 in the Terrace Theater. While the first play traced the evolution of a young man finding his artistic voice, this production spans the peak of Williams's career. In letters both hilarious and poignant, Blanche and Beyond explores a brilliant playwright facing the seismic shock of international fame. Language and content intended for mature audiences, high-school age and above.

With two turntables, video, and a spoken word virtuoso, the living history of the hip hop generation is dramatically realized through the break/s, the performed personal narrative of poet Marc Bamuthi Joseph in the Terrace Theater September 18 _20. Drawing on interviews and documentary footage by filmmaker by Eli Jacobs-Fantuzzi, this collaboration between performer, score, and projected image puts hip hop culture into personal, historical, and political perspective while breaking down the boundaries of theater, dance, and film.

For more information about these and the many free events that are part of Prelude 08, visit

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