Before all the pomp and circumstance of Washington’s annual National Memorial Day Concert on the Mall came the prep and practice today.
Sunday’s free concert on the West Front steps of the Capitol starts at 8 p.m., hosted by actors Joe Mantegna and Gary Sinise and with appearances by singers Chris Mann, Tony-winner Alfie Boe and soprano Katherine Jenkins, backed by the National Symphony.
Also taking part will be the Military District of Washington, U.S. Army Herald Trumpets, U.S. Army Chorus, The Soldiers’ Chorus of The United States Army Field Band, U.S. Navy Band Sea Chanters and U.S. Air Force Singing Sergeants.
Candice Glover, the newly crowned American Idol winner, will sing the National Anthem.
“She will bring it home,” predicted fan Edwards Bilbo today, “she can sing the phone book if she needs to."
Today the stage was set, the chairs lined up and the performers ran through sound checks in advance of tomorrow’s main event.
But beyond the celebrity lineup Sunday’s show is all about giving thanks to veterans and troops over Memorial Day weekend with various tributes planned for service men and women throughout the 90 minute program.
“To take, you know, an hour and a half -out of you day your holiday weekend- to say thank you and come together as one family of Americans,” Concert producer Michael Colbert said in between rehearsals today. “We are trying to get to the real meaning of Memorial Day. To thank all of those who are serving, those who have served you know our wounded warriors.”
Hundreds of thousands typically come out for the concert each year, a crowd that is also expected at tomorrow night’s show. Deployed service members will be able to watch as well – the concert will be simulcast to nearly one million Americans serving abroad in 175 countries and on 140 naval ships across the world.
For those here in the district to watch tomorrow’s concert, the talk today was all about the abnormally cold weather.
“We are going to the concert, “Edward Bilbo visiting from Louisiana said , “The weather is a little chilly -- it was about 90 degrees back home when we left. So we didn’t prepare for that.”
Show producers said the chilly temperatures today made the rehearsals a little more “difficult” than normal.
“The temperature is getting our attention,” Michael Colbert said, “Normally we're out here sweating, you know, instead of being chilly but hey - you think of what all our troops and veterans have done for us -- needless to say it’s a minor sacrifice.”
If you can’t make it down to the West Lawn of the Capitol Sunday night, the whole concert will be broadcast live on PBS at 8 pm ET.