NSO performs ‘Concert of Remembrance’ at Kennedy Center for victims of 9/11, COVID-19

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews the 'Concert of Remembrance' (Part 1)

This weekend marks the 20th anniversary of one of the most tragic days in U.S. history.

The National Symphony Orchestra performs a “Concert of Remembrance” at the Kennedy Center at 7:30 p.m. Friday, remembering all of the lives lost on that day 20 years ago, as well as the lives lost during the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year and a half.

“The goal of our ‘Concert of Remembrance’ is to not only recognize the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, but also to commemorate lives lost during the pandemic,” NSO Executive Director Gary Ginstling told WTOP. “The National Symphony and Kennedy Center seek to express our gratitude to all those who protect us: the military, law enforcement, frontline health care workers.”

The free concert marks a broader reopening of the Kennedy Center’s indoor activities.

“We felt it was important at the outset of our reawakening to recognize the anniversary of 9/11, the lives lost and offer our thanks to our fellow citizens who have been working tirelessly to keep us safe and healthy … in the way we know best: through the language of music,” Ginstling said.

The free concert will be conducted by NSO Music Director Gianandrea Noseda and will feature performances by “The President’s Own” U.S. Marine Band and opera star Isabel Leonard.

“[It’s] a wonderful, diverse, patriotic program,” Ginstling said. “You’ll hear from wonderful orchestral works like Aaron Copland’s ‘Fanfare for the Common Man.’ We’re going to do a piece by a wonderful composer named William Grant Still. Isabel Leonard will be performing a number of recognizable songs by the great American composer Leonard Bernstein.”

You’ll also see the world premiere of a brand new piece commissioned for this event.

“It will be the first time this piece is ever performed to commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11 by composer James Lee III,” Ginstling said. “James is a professor of composition at Morgan State University in Baltimore and also a Fulbright Scholar. James is calling this piece ‘An Engraved American Mourning,’ and it is a reflection on his emotions from Sept. 11, 2001.”

You’ll also see several special appearances.

“We’ve invited a number of guests to join us,” Ginstling said. “General Colin Powell will be making some remarks, as well as Dr. Francis Collins, who is the director of the National Institutes of Health …. to add some of their personal thoughts on the occasion and the role of music paying tribute to all of those who we’ve lost and all of those who have served our country so well.”

Patrons must show proof of full vaccination. Some exemptions apply, including children under 12, who must show proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to the performance.

Masks are required for everyone indoors, except when eating or drinking in designated areas.

“We believe strongly in our hearts the role that music can play to bring people together, to inspire us and to cause us to reflect,” Ginstling said. “For us, the opportunity to gather and experience some great music … and commemorate this occasion with some special guests is going to make for a special and unique evening — and we hope everyone listening will join us.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews the 'Concert of Remembrance' (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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