We arrived on Thursday evening for the Friday morning rehearsal at the Kennedy Center. (I'm going to just type "Kennedy Center" again because I like how it sounds.) Friday morning's rehearsal at the Kennedy Center made me a bit nervous, as much of the music was not sent out ahead of time, so I didn't get a chance to see and practice it before the rehearsal. At the Kennedy Center.
I brought 2 of my own guitars on the plane with me and they rented 2 additional guitars, an amplifier, and miscellaneous support gear.
When the "backline" guy arrived, the stage crew came out to the loading dock and I selected instruments, stands, pedals, patch cords, etc. from a truck full of gear, and then the stage crew picked it up, carried it in and set it up for me.
The rehearsal that evening was on the lawn of the Capitol building, which is where the Senate and the House of Representatives meet. Our first view of the Capitol building from the stage was breathtaking, her grand white dome glowing gentle orange in the evening sun.
The orchestra sat facing the Capitol, the dome's geometric perfection dominating our view of the world throughout the rehearsals and performance.
The show memorialized fallen and wounded soldiers in a dignified, respectful, and at times deeply personal way.
For many, it was emotionally devastating. Comments about the show included "You didn't prepare me for how much of a tearjerker that would be," and "It made me want to go hug my son."
Officers on the roof of the Capitol building, armed with binoculars and rifles (at least) kept watch over the crowd.
The need for all the security was apparent, as the front rows of the audience were filled with faces recognizable from television news shows: generals, congressmen, senators, admirals, and other
officials from the government.
Several of the celebrities came to the bar, which was filled with crew members, musicians, actors, wardrobe people, drivers, interns, dancers, producers, arrangers, camera operators, even one of the soldiers and his wife who were in the TV show. There was a warm glow among everyone gathered there that night.
My one regret for the weekend was that I did not get to shake Colin Powell’s hand. I have admired him for years and I wanted to shake his hand and ask him to run for president.
When he left the stage after his sound check Sunday before the show, I quickly tried to follow him back stage, but he disappeared into a sea of brass – the generals and admirals of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – and I stopped cold.
Not even I have that much nerve. It occurred to me later that I likely was under the watchful eye of one of the men on the roof of the Capitol when I walked straight toward Colin Powell like that.
May 26, 2009
fortune has visited me twice since this essay was originally posted.
returned from Washington D.C., after performing in the 2009 National
Memorial Day Concert. This
year’s show was the most moving of the three that I have performed in.
invited to the after party in the Capitol Rotunda.
It was packed with senators, congressmen, celebrities – all
manner of important people, the most important of whom were the wounded
soldiers from Walter Reed Hospital.
I spoke with many of them and was struck by how down-to-earth they
had been hit behind the ear while in Iraq.
The bullet tore out his jaw and nose.
He had the most gentle eyes I have ever seen.
Others were in wheelchairs or on crutches.
They were interested in meeting the celebrities and the celebs were
eager to talk with and pose for pictures with the soldiers.
I saw one soldier hand his cell phone to Trace Adkins, giving a
country music fan back home quite a thrill.
was the most magnificent specimen I have ever seen.
He was a large, powerful man, wearing a dress uniform with a
special forces insignia, and a chest full of medals, one of which was a
Silver Star. He
stood tall and proud, a real-life superhero and I felt humbled by his
walked up to him and thanked him for his service and a warm smile spread
across his face. “You’re
most welcome, sir,” he replied.
I felt even more humbled by this exchange with him.
you to see wounded soldiers face-to-face, to meet men who signed the blank
check to Uncle Sam and then paid the price with their own flesh.
It changes you.
© 2002 - 2016, Tim Berens