By Brittany Sterling Young
The year 2018 marks the 100th birthday of renowned American composer Leonard Bernstein, and naturally D.C. (along with the rest of the world) has plans to celebrate! Throughout the year, the Washington area will put on jazz, theater, classical, choral, and dance performances to recognize this influential man in music.
Bernstein spent a significant portion of his life in D.C., and he was often a visitor of the White House. He also often composed for and conducted D.C. performing arts groups, premiered his own works in the area such as West Side Story and MASS, and even served as emcee for the National Performing Arts Center, now known to all as the Kennedy Center.
The Kennedy Center will partner with venues such as the Atlas Performing Arts Center, AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Cathedral Choral Society and, most importantly, the Catholic University of America Music Theatre Division and Arena Stage, as well as other performing organizations, for its celebration of “Leonard Bernstein at 100”.
This past January, Catholic students performed at the Kennedy Center for a 55-minute, revue-style show including pieces from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, The Lark, Peter Pan, Wonderful Town, A Party with Comden and Green, and West Side Story.
Then, coming up between March 27th to April 1st, D.C. residents can expect to see the the New York City Ballet at the Kennedy Center performing Fancy Free to celebrate Bernstein as well as choreographer Jerome Robbins. Later this spring, from May 5th to May 26th, the Washington National Opera will perform Candide, the operetta by Bernstein based on the 1759 novella by Voltaire.
On Friday, May 4th and Sunday, May 6th, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra will put on a performance entitled “To Bernstein With Love”. To celebrate Bernstein’s centennial renowned violinist Nicola Benedetti will join the Orchestra to play Bernstein’s Three Dance Episodes from On the Town, Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, and Serenade.
The Cathedral Choral Society will explore the works of Bernstein from a different perspective and will showcase him as a humanitarian through a series of speeches, videos, and finally a musical performance. Bernstein conducted a “Concert for Peace” on the eve of Nixon’s second inauguration in 1973 featuring Haydn’s Mass in Time of War, as a calling to peace during a time of instability. To commemorate this effort, the Cathedral Choral Society will perform this same mass (Mass in C Major, Hob. XXII:9) as well as Bernstein’s own Make Our Garden Grow.
As such a monumental influencer in the history of D.C.’s arts, these are just some of the events the city has planned to honor the musician. Many more are expected to be announced.