‘Tribute to the Wounded Warriors’ fails to live up to the hype

June 28, 2011

On one level, the “Tribute to the Wounded Warriors” program at the Kennedy Center’s Concert Hall on Monday was touching and profound. In the audience were men and women who have fought in this country’s wars, many gravely injured. Several were honored in person onstage and roundly cheered for their heroism. During the performance of an “Armed Forces Medley,” uniformed members of the various forces stood proudly as their songs were played and they, too, were cheered.

As entertainment, however, the program was appalling. Master of ceremonies/oboist H. David Meyers kept hyping wonders. “This will blow your socks off,” he promised. “This next will blow you out the door.”

But instead there was a disorganized sequence of under-rehearsed pieces, some played by a very large orchestra (that included a couple of members of both the Baltimore Symphony and the National Symphony), a huge chorus that was mostly inaudible and a parade of performers who, for the most part, looked uncomfortable. Even Jon Anderson, former lead singer of the rock band Yes, and a wind ensemble from the Peabody Institute that, for some reason, struggled through Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” appeared lost onstage.

The evening’s saving grace was singer-composer Carol Connors, whose introduction to the theme from “Rocky” was truly funny and who took the podium and conducted the piece in the evening’s best performance.

For the next go-round of this endeavor, scheduled for Verizon Center in October, Meyers should consider inviting her to host and relegate himself to what he does well — play in the oboe section.

The energy behind this production is an organization called Beethoven Found that is committed to raising money to support injured troops — a worthy goal — but the troops deserve a better show.

Reinthaler is a freelancer writer.

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