Kennedy Center Honors gala returns for in-person celebration of the arts

The Kennedy Center Honors return to tradition with an in-person gala and the presence of the president for the first time since 2016.


12/6/2021 6:01:00 PM

The Kennedy Center Honors return to tradition with an in-person gala and the presence of the president for the first time since 2016.

The Kennedy Center Honors returned to tradition this year with an in-person gala Sunday night and the presence of the president for the first time since 2016.

This year’s event at the Kennedy Center’s main opera house represented a return to tradition, with President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden attending.President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump skipped the show the first three years he was in office after several of the artists honored in 2017, his first year in office, threatened to boycott a White House reception if he participated. Last year, the pandemic forced a delay and major changes to the program.

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The Bidens drew a sustained standing ovation when they entered the presidential box at the opera house. Cellist Yo-Yo Ma performed the national anthem and encouraged the audience to sing the final lines together.The theater was packed to capacity and there were no social distancing restrictions, but vaccinations and recent negative Covid-19 tests were required for all who attended.

The tributes featured testimonials and performances that were kept secret from the honorees. Mitchell’s tribute featured performances of her songs by Nora Jones, Brandi Carlile, Ellie Goulding and Brittany Howard. Diaz was honored with a performance from the opera “Carmen” and a song from his two daughters, Katya and Natascia.

For Michaels, organizers put together three “Weekend Update” segments onstage with multiple generations of mock news anchors — Kevin Nealon, Seth Myers and Amy Poehler, and the current duo of Michel Che and Colin Jost. Che joked that Biden would be asleep before the end of the show and Poehler poked at the Toronto-born Michaels by proclaiming that Joni Mitchell had been declared “the best Canadian of all time.”

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Motown Records creator Berry Gordy gestures as he arrives at the 44th Kennedy Center Honors at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021. The 2021 Kennedy Center honorees include Gordy, "Saturday Night Live" mastermind Lorne Michaels, actress-singer Bette Midler, opera singer Justino Diaz and folk music legend Joni Mitchell. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Carolyn Kaster / APMidler received testimonials from close friends Goldie Hawn and Barbara Hershey, and a performance by Tony Award winner Billy Porter of her iconic song, “The Wind Beneath My Wings.” Gordy’s career was celebrated with performances of multiple Motown hits by Andra Day and Stevie Wonder and an extended tribute from close friend Smokey Robinson. The event ended with several of the night’s performers joining for a performance of Wonder’s hit “Higher Ground.”

Before the Kennedy Center event, Biden revived another tradition that had been missing under Trump, a White House reception for the honorees.“We welcome everyone back,” he told a crowd of about 150 seated in the East Room, decked out with Christmas trees and wreaths. Guests included Vice President Kamala Harris, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Caroline Kennedy, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Chita Rivera, Steve Martin and Herbie Hancock.

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“Our nation is stronger, more dynamic and more vibrant because of you,” Biden told the honorees.Biden praised the work of the artists, their “sixth sense” that helps them create and move so many people, saying: “I don’t think you fully appreciate what you do for so many people.”

He spoke of Diaz’s “sound of soul,” Gordy’s creation of “one of the most iconic businesses” in American history with Motown Records. With Michaels, he joked: “Finally, it’s my turn to say something about him,” poking fun at Michaels’ SNL show, which routinely mocks presidents, including the current commander in chief.

“You make me laugh at myself a lot,” Biden said, then went on to say Michaels was auditioning actors right now to play him next on SNL. Biden asked Steve Martin to stand as an example of the type of talent Michaels has cultivated over the past decades.

Martin paused and asked the president, “Do you want me to play you?” The crowd erupted in laughter.Biden then professed his admiration for both Mitchell and Midler, telling Midler that “people will never forget how you make them feel. That’s your gift, it’s incredible.”

And lastly: “Joni. Your words and melodies touch the deepest parts of our soul,” Biden said.Last year, the pandemic forced organizers to bump the annual December ceremony back to May 2021. Performance tributes to the artists were filmed over several nights and at multiple locations on campus.

This year’s main Covid-related modification was shifting the annual Saturday ceremony, where honorees receive their medallions on rainbow-colored ribbons, to the Library of Congress instead of the State Department.Sunday’s ceremony, which will be broadcast Dec. 22 by CBS, is the centerpiece of the Kennedy Center’s 50th anniversary of cultural programming. The center opened in 1971.

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Lorne Michaels, Bette Midler Feted at Kennedy Center HonorsThe lifetime achievement awards for artistic excellence also were presented to Motown Records creator Berry Gordy, opera singer Justino Diaz and folk music legend Joni Mitchell, with President Joe Biden in attendance. Bette is another Hollywood icon you think 'now if only she would shut her trap on politics'. Part of that old school loony liberal brigade.

Return to tradition: Biden celebrates Bette Midler, Joni Mitchell at Kennedy Center HonorsPresident Joe Biden celebrated artists including Bette Midler, Joni Mitchell and Lorne Michaels on Sunday at the Kennedy Center Honors, bringing back presidential participation to an annual event skipped by Republican Donald Trump. Singer Justino Díaz and Motown founder Berry Gordy rounded out the group of artists selected by the Kennedy Center for top honors this year at a show that had been upended by politics and the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic. 'To all of the Kennedy Center honorees past and present, thank you for sharing your gift with the nation and ... with the world,' Biden said at a black-tie reception at the White House. Check out my Gig on Fiverr: I will do a mountain travel tourist beach logo design Is there no one to say we did not include Berry Gordy and Justino Diaz in the post or title? 🤔🧐

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Kennedy Center Honors 2021: Bette Midler, Joni Mitchell, Berry Gordy earn epic tributesReturning with an audience for the first time since 2019 and the first attendance of the U.S. president since 2016, the ceremony Sunday honored Bette Midler, Joni Mitchell, Berry Gordy, Justino Díaz and “Saturday Night Live” mastermind Lorne Michaels. For all those who are new to this working from home Bitcoin trading options Here's a little tip: Get a trusted Bitcoin expert and stick to him Arnoldnike93 Invest and play at similar times each day. Because : In times of chaos, your investment is your anchor to success⚖️ So you included a photo of every honoree, but Gordy. 🙄

Tradition again: Biden celebrates Bette Midler, Joni Mitchell at Kennedy Center HonorsPresident Joe Biden celebrates artists including Bette Midler, Joni Mitchell and Lorne Michaels on Sunday at the Kennedy Center Honors, bringing back presidential participation in the annual ceremony skipped by Republican Donald Trump. Bette Miller is classically beautiful! 2 Canadians Can you just say what Biden did & eliminate mentioning tfg? Seriously. Let it go.

Kennedy Center ceremony returns to White HouseThe lifetime achievement awards for artistic excellence will be presented Sunday night in a gala at the Kennedy Center’s main opera house after the coronavirus pandemic forced delays and major changes to last year’s plans.