All Kennedied out

23Jan11

Overheard at the Kennedy Center today: “Now, this Richard Dreyfuss. Is he an actor of some kind?” “Hmm, I dunno honey.”

I was at the Kennedy Center* to see the National Symphony Orchestra perform as part of a big celebration for the 50th Anniversary of Kennedy’s inauguration. The performance opened with a silly little film, Ted Sorensen Remembers, that focused on the inauguration gala concert that was put on the day before the actual ceremony in 1961. While you don’t want to speak ill of the dead… wow, Ted Sorensen, your all-encompassing love for Kennedy is a little crazy. I do get that it’s the Kennedy Center, but the idolation of a pretty average president gets a bit grating after a while.

Following that rather bizarre introduction was a new work the Center had commissioned for the occasion, and oh my god was it ever naff. Called Remembering JFK (An American Elegy), it featured Richard Dreyfuss reading sections of JFK’s speeches over ridiculously overwrought and overdone music. It wasn’t helped by the fact that Dreyfuss, bless him, is maybe getting a bit old? And stumbled over his words a few times even though he was reading from a script. And when he wasn’t talking he was breathing very heavily into the microphone, which didn’t exactly enhance the stupid music.

But! After the intermission the program picked up! Thank God. We had Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, in which the percussion section went to town, and then Gershwin’s piano concerto, which was marred only slightly by the three snoring men sitting beside and in front of me.

* Argh the continuing war in my heart was to whether I should spell it “center” or “centre” in cases like this.

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