Before you watch the Stevie Wonder concert last night at the White House in celebration of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song tonight on PBS (you will watch, won’t you?), you really need to see the celebrated artist kick it “classical style” in the Library’s Coolidge Auditorium. (The White House event was also held in honor of African American History Month.)
Wonder and a 21-piece orchestral ensemble performed the world premiere of a piece commissioned by the Library called “Sketches of a Life,” a nine-movement reflection on his lifelong musical and personal influences. The unique piece, a big departure from the Stevie Wonder most of us know and love, has been drawing rave reviews. SEE THE WEBCAST!
The composition, bookended by a pair of standing ovations, was followed by an encore of two more-familiar Stevie Wonder hits. First, he played a goosebump-inducing version of “Overjoyed.” (At least it gave me goosebumps.) Then he led the 450-person audience in a rollicking sing-along of “My Cherie Amour.”
Wonder joins a long list of distinguished composers who have written commissions for the Library, including Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, Samuel Barber, Bela Bartók, Paquito D’Rivera and Cecil Taylor. You can learn more about the Library’s vast performing-arts holdings here.
Even if you couldn’t be there in person, I hope the webcast gives you a sense of the excitement in the air for that historic moment. And I hope our servers can handle the traffic that this webcast might (and should) get!
You can also watch a pre-concert news conference in its entirety here.
UPDATE: My apologies, but I had thought the version of the concert we uploaded was much closer to the complete show. There are a couple of tangles we’re still working through. The entire show, or the vast bulk of it, should be online soon.
Even communications directors find themselves caught up in miscommunication now and again.