By D. Channing Muller Posted December 6, 2011, 8:55 AM EST
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts hosted its 34th annual honors awards program and dinner last weekend, recognizing excellence in the various fields of the performing and visual arts. The night’s honorees were actress Meryl Streep, singer-songwriter Neil Diamond, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, singer Barbara Cook, and saxophonist and composer Sonny Rollins.
The Kennedy Center Honors, televised on CBS in late December each year, serves as the culmination of 15 luncheons, dinners, and meetings throughout the weekend in celebrating the year’s award winners, who received medallions during a private gala hosted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the Department of State on Saturday night.
For the honorees, Sunday’s events officially began with a pre-reception hosted by President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama at the White House, including special members of the National Artists Committee who nominated the recipients. Inside the Kennedy Center’s Opera House, the three-hour program, produced by founder George Stevens Jr. and co-writer Nick Vanoff, featured performances by Patti Lupone, James Taylor, Smokey Robinson, Glenn Close, and Ravi Coltrane, all of whose participation remained secret until they took the stage. Other stars of the big and small screens paid tribute to the honorees with speeches from past honoree Robert De Niro, and Stanley Tucci, Stephen Colbert, Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick, and host Caroline Kennedy.
Carolyn Peachey of Campbell, Peachey and Associates once again coordinated the supper dance following the show. Nearly 2,000 guests dined at 171 tables arranged in the grand foyer and on the two stages at either end of the hall, the only time during the year when this memorial space is used for a dinner event. DC Rental provided linens in blue, lime green, hot pink, and orange, topped with colorful tropical centerpieces from JLB Floral in silver vases of varying heights and shapes to decorate the space.
In-house caterer Restaurant Associates served a three-course meal, beginning around 11 p.m. with a rustic cobb salad. Then came the main course of poussin de mattone, ratatouille, and celery root-potato puree followed by a selection of sweets for dessert.
The Boeing Company, Delta Air Lines, and Audi sponsored the event along with CBS.