Five much-honored names in the arts were honored again last night at the Kennedy Center in what turned out to be part roast and part pep rally for the arts, with some fine entertainment sandwiched in between.
The honorees were David Lloyd Kreeger, ubiquitous arts patron; Martin Feinstein, general director of the Washington Opera; Mary Day, artistic director of the Washington Ballet; Zelda Fichandler, producing director of Arena Stage; and guitarist Charlie Byrd. They were well known to each other as well as to their audience, Washington's arts community being a tightly knit group.
In accepting their awards from the National Choral Foundation, most of the honorees mentioned each other, as when Kreeger said of Charlie Byrd, who opened the jazz and supper club Charlie's two years ago: "What a fortunate guy he is. He doesn't have to rely on the National Endowment for the Arts for handouts."
About 170 people showed up for dinner, served in the Musical Theater Lab on the top floor of the Kennedy Center. Through the windows guests could watch a dusky red sunset. Feinstein, recovering from a heart attack, showed up with a deep tan and was asked continually if he had just returned from Florida. "I've been on my sundeck in Virginia," he said, "listening to music and reading."
Feinstein himself provided one of the more serious moments. "We must have cultural attractions befitting the nation's capital," he said in accepting his award, "and I think that's what we're all working toward."
Less seriously, Paul Hill, director of the Paul Hill Chorale, said in presenting the award to Feinstein: "I've been thinking all week of how to summarize his legendary contributions to the city and his miserable attempts to conduct. One of my charitable acts each year is to turn over my baton to let Martin conduct the Hallelulah Chorus. I think everyone can understand why even the stage hands join in for the last hallelujah."
The entertainment included singing by the Paul Hill Chorale, a vignette from Stephen Wade's "Banjo Dancing," violin by Miran Kojian, guitar by Charlie Byrd and dancing by the Washington Ballet's Amanda McKerrow and Simon Dow. Proceeds from the event benefit the National Choral Foundation.