For a celebration of the sky, you can't beat the Jefferson Memorial on a Friday night. The first attraction is the setting sun. Install yourself on the north steps of the Memorial facing the Tidal Basin and sweep your eyes from west to east -- from Rosslyn's silhouetted concrete towers softened by orange and pink tinges to the Washington Monument's sun-warmed granite -- and bask in the golden glow settling over official Washington.
The visual feast has grand accompaniment, courtesy of the United States Air Force Band, which plays every Friday night at 8 throughout the summer. Concert veterans bring their own folding chairs and set up an orchestra section on the Memorial's plaza. But there are plenty of perches on the Memorial's marble stairs -- bring a blanket or a cushion to soften those balcony seats, and a cooler full of sippables.
One recent Friday, as the sun's light faded and the band struck up Holst's eerie suite, "The Planets," the sky to the west began to pulse with the flashing lights of incoming aircraft, the firefly lights of cars flickered along the Tidal Basin'stree-lined roads. On either side of the stage-lit bandstand, blue-black objects seemed to hover over the inky water -- paddle boats drawn by the light and the music. And, at last, overhead at 10 o'clock, a bona fide evening star.
The concert ended with a rousing anthem to the skies sung by the Air Force's Singing Sergeants: Off we go, into the wild blue yonder / Climbing high, up to the sun. The crowd cheered its appreciation of the night, the music and the stars. SOUSA BY STARLIGHT -- The U.S. Air Force Band performs Friday evenings at 8 at the Jefferson Memorial now until August 26. Call 767-4310 for program information. Sunday nights at 8:30, the Marine Band plays throughout the summer. Call 433-4011. And on Tuesday nights till August 30, the Army Band plays at 8. Call 692-7219. Nearest public parking is on Ohio Drive.