I’ve seen a fair amount of performances in the Kennedy Center’s grand concert hall. Andre Watts banging out a Beethoven piano concerto, the Chieftains, and if memory serves, the NSO playing some strange composition by Witold Lutoslawski.

None of them lit the hall up quite like last evening’s celebration of MLK Jr. Day. There was Denyce Graves, a young violin duo called “Nuttin’ But Stringz,” and the “Let Freedom Ring Choir,” not to mention a decent orchestra.

The concert was free, though that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a price to be paid. The sponsors of the show—who won’t be named here because they promoted themselves just fine at the show itself—orchestrated an award for great work in the civil rights arena. It went to D.C. congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton. Just as Norton was getting into a discussion of how an award in the tradition name of MLK places an even greater responsibility on her going forward, my 4-year-old started squirming and saying he had to go to the bathroom. Point being, don’t mix ceremonies with tunes.

We got back just in time for some fine music-making. Denyce Graves sang a lot and well. The choir, too, was amazing, singing “We Shall Overcome” and some great gospel stuff. This from a choir that had at least one pretty green voice on the risers.

How do I know that? Because my wife was among the robed, by way of full disclosure. In the best spirit of MLK, the “Let Freedom Ring Choir” was open to just about anyone who could make it to a few rehearsals, and my wife leapt at the opportunity. She later said it was the “coolest” thing she’d ever done. That may raise a few questions about all the things she’s ever done, but hey.

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