National Memorial Day Concert 2009

Sun, 05/24/2009 - 8:00pm
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Pictured: Maestro Erich Kunzel conducts the National Symphony Orchestra
Credit: Capital Concerts
On Memorial Day weekend, PBS will unite the nation with an evening that has become an American tradition. The multi award-winning National Memorial Day Concert , which airs Sunday, May 24 at 8 p.m. on WXXI-TV21 (cable 11) and WXXI-HD (DT21.1/cable1011), honors the service and sacrifice of men and women in uniform, their families at home and all those who have given their lives for this country. The 2009 event commemorates 20 years on air as the nation’s memorial service, offering viewers a time to remember.

The program is co-hosted for the fourth year by Emmy Award-winner Gary Sinise (CSI: New York) and Tony Award-winner Joe Mantegna (Criminal Minds), two acclaimed actors who have dedicated themselves to veterans’ causes and to supporting troops in active service. The top-rated show will be broadcast live from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol before a concert audience of hundreds of thousands, millions more at home and, through the American Forces Radio and Television Network, troops serving around the world.

Joining co-hosts Sinise and Mantegna is an all-star line-up of dignitaries, actors and musical artists including distinguished American leader Colin L. Powell; double Academy Award-winning actress Dianne Wiest; singer Katharine McPhee (“American Idol”); country music superstar Trace Adkins; Tony Award-winning Broadway star Brian Stokes Mitchell; celebrated Broadway star Colm Wilkinson (Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera); acclaimed opera star Denyce Graves; classical music superstar Lang Lang; and Grammy-nominated violin virtuoso Robert McDuffie in performance with the National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of maestro Erich Kunzel, recipient of the National Medal of Arts. The U.S Joint Chiefs of Staff also will participate in the event along with the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets, the U.S. Army Chorus, the Soldiers Chorus of the U.S. Army Field Band, the U.S. Navy Sea Chanters, the Armed Forces Color Guard and Service Color Teams provided by the Military District of Washington, DC.

“For 20 years, a remarkable group of distinguished performers and television veterans have come together to create a moving remembrance and tribute to those who have been wounded or given their lives for our country,” said concert executive producer Jerry Colbert. “Together with our audience, we have become a community of care and support for our troops. And, every year, we receive a growing number of emails and letters from those who still suffer their own personal and painful losses — from WWII, Korea, Vietnam and now Iraq and Afghanistan — for whom this concert is truly a healing and uniting experience.”

The National Memorial Day Concert features uplifting musical performances, documentary footage and dramatic readings that honor all Americans who have served or made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. The 2009 event will focus on three main themes:

  • As part of the nationwide Lincoln Bicentennial celebration, the concert pays tribute to Abraham Lincoln’s legacy of reaching out “to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan …” The segment will feature dramatic readings of some of Lincoln’s personal letters written during the Civil War, the most costly conflict in America’s history with more than 620,000 lives lost.
  • The concert will honor the sacrifices, suffering and love of the thousands of family members caring for veterans severely wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. These disabled warriors have become living memorials, a visible reminder of those who sacrificed so much for the principles we stand for, and whose families take care of them and will continue to sacrifice for them for the rest of their lives.
  • This 20th anniversary broadcast reaches out to the entire community of Americans who gather year after year on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol and from around the country to support the troops. Since 1989, the producers of the National Memorial Day Concert have been privileged to welcome acclaimed stars of stage, screen and music — from Tom Hanks, George Clooney, Jimmy Smits, Richard Dreyfuss, Kathy Bates and Natalie Cole to Gladys Knight, B.B. King, Martina McBride, Vanessa Williams, Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss. This year’s event will look back and reflect on some of the most powerful moments from the past two decades, in which these performers contributed their considerable talents to help remember and pay tribute to all those who served in America’s wars.      

A companion Web Site at will feature a comprehensive viewer’s guide to the 2009 concert and a special remembrance area where veterans and their families can send eulogies for their loved ones and friends to be delivered to the national memorials in Washington, DC.

For more than 25 years, Capital Concerts has produced the two major patriotic events at the U.S. Capitol. In 1981, executive producer Jerry Colbert presented the first PBS Fourth of July concert with the National Symphony Orchestra and guest artists performing live from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. In 1990, he introduced the National Memorial Day Concert. Since then, the holiday specials have been honored with more than 55 awards, including the New York Film Festival Award, the Telly Award, the Golden Cine Award, the Videographer Award, the National Education Association Award, the Aurora Award, the Christopher Award, the Communicator’s Award, the AXIEM Award, the Omni Award and the Writer’s Guild of America Award.




National Memorial Day Concert

The National Memorial Day Concert was amazingly wonderful. It was the type of program of which every American could and should be proud. It renews patriotism. The choice of music and the various presentations were honorable, respectful and genuine as well as first-class entertainment. I look forward to seeing it every year. Thank you.