Friday, December 28, 2007

The Kennedy Center Honors

"Diana Ross makes it sound so simple.'I really, deeply believe that dreams do come true,' the international entertainment icon has said, while also believing that 'you can't just sit there and wait for people to give you that golden dream-you've got to get out there and make it happen for yourself.'"

Tonight I watched a Kennedy Center program honoring Martin Scorsese, Steve Martin, Diana Ross, Leon Fleisher, and Brian Wilson. Each tribute was beautifully done, full of the appreciation and joy of expressing artistically, the passions of life as art, emphasized by those who were influenced by these artists. Each person has his or her passion, their perseverance for using or finding the medium through which their passions could live, could be expressed joyfully, happily. Fleisher still says, after having lost the use of his right hand for piano and regaining it decades later, to play music is wonderful, is to be in a state of ecstasy. After the despair of losing his gift, he came to realize that the music came from him, not just his hands. He began to teach, beloved students, to conduct, and finally, again, to play, first with his left hand. Each of these artists was honored by contemporaries and those who have come behind.

Some of the Beach Boys hits persisted through the years I was growing up in boarding school far away in Africa. The older girls danced and sang while we listened and danced with them, energized by their fun and the music. Girls from around the world sang those lyrics together, loudly, and clapping. Diana Ross is a diva who personifies the word. To watch her even now is to appreciate that spirit she personifies – reach out and touch somebody’s hand, make this world a better place, she sang, and I feel it as she took Brian Wilson’s hand, Martin Scorsese’s hand on either side of her as they took their final bow of the program. Familiar faces from our public arena, and entertainment history,appeared everywhere in the audience. As the camera showed Condoleezza Rice as she listened to one of Fleisher’s students play a beautiful grand with the Peabody Conservatory orchestra and a grand choir behind him, I wondered if she ever longed for more of that pure ecstasy of playing music, without the tangle of politics which so often has no harmony. She moved with the music. Steve Martin always sought to invent new ways to express himself, to laugh at the absurdity of so much of life. His college study of philosophy gave him the prompt to go beyond the physical sleight of hand to overt absurd props which he used in new ways, and to use his own physical humor with absolute freedom. Just to be physical is funny! He was hilariously silly. Recently I saw his memoir in the bookstore (Born To Stand Up). I picked it up but didn’t buy it then. I’m adding it to my list, again. For me it is a tribute, too, to read the ways such personalities express their lives on paper. Martin Scorsese – to capture his vision on film, full of the sounds and sharpness of the streets, the personalities with the raw energy which keeps the streets humming. As he listened to the tributes, he smiled, and his face was full of emotion– as he listened to the aria, to the music, listened, no doubt remembered. I cried with joy as I watched. These tributes remind all of us, and especially the creators, how much their presence means in the world, how the ripples expand.

What a tribute, what a place, what passion. Thank you.

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