GLITTERY NIGHT AT KENNEDY CENTER
WASHINGTON — Amid the pomp and circumstance of the Kennedy Center Honors came one hushed, beautiful interlude. Violinist Isaac Stern, alone in the middle of the huge stage, played unaccompanied the simple Irish tune "Londonderry Air" as a gift to his longtime friend and honoree Gregory Peck, whose roots are in County Kerry.There was a gift on stage for each of the seven honorees at last weekend's 14th-annual Kennedy Center Honors: For Broadway lyricists Betty Comden and Adolph Green, a stage full of red-white-and-blue-striped songs from their current Tony Award musical, "The Will Rogers Follies," starring Keith Carradine; For the legendary Nicholas Brothers, Fayard and Harold, whose "classical tap" danced them out of Hollywood's early movie ghetto and into films, younger dancers including Gregory Hines tapped out a thunder ous homage; For country singer Roy Acuff, the "Wabash cannonball" of performers, Kennedy Center put together a set inspired by the Grand Ole Opry, where he has been king of country music since 1938; For Robert Shaw, the force behind the Robert Shaw Chorale and the man who has been called "The John the Baptist of choral music," there was a massed tribute of choirs. The evening was a pastiche of film clips and stills on the honorees' lives, performances, and tributes by celebrities. President and Mrs. Bush were seated with the honorees. The tribute will be televised Dec. 26 on CBS with Walter Cronkite. As the celebrities walked a red-carpet gauntlet into Kennedy Center, there was a cry of "There he is!" when Gregory Peck appeared. He towered over the crowd, his trademark eyebrows furrowing before he beamed a wide smile. They cheered the actor who has moved audiences in films from "To Kill a Mockingbird" to "Roman Holiday" to "Moby Dick." As Isaac Stern said, "He's an American's American."