It was a rainy night in the District of Columbia and at a place for the arts named after John Fitzgerald Kennedy, hundreds stood and grooved, sat and swayed and patted the soles of their heels to the music of a phenomenal group of talented musicians that call themselves, Earth, Wind and Fire.
The Concert Hall of the Kennedy center was filled with fans the group that came to celebrate their 40th Anniversary. Original members Verdine White, Philip Bailey and Ralph Johnson and their band performed the concert to benefit the Duke Ellington School for the Arts. Founding member Maurice White, the brother of Verdine White no longer tours with the group; he is afflicted with Parkinson’s disease but his energy and love was part of the wind and fire as the earth in the Concert Hall moved fans to their feet.
From the very first chord in the darkened stage to the finale with lights on and the audience rockin, the concert was as are most of Earth, Wind and Fire concerts a combination of high level energy, creative musical arrangements and heavenly vocals from Philip Bailey. Guitarist Verdine White is a human mass of energy that has always seemed to have boundless energy.
I have seen this band at least a dozen times over a thirty year time span and this concert was as good if not better than others several years ago. The band members have aged as have I, but Verdine White’s energy and the way that his fingers stroked his white guitar made one want to “Grove ” that night. It is not for me to ponder the “Reasons’ that God gave Philip Bailey a voice that seems to reach the heavens; I imagine even the angels were mesmerized when he sang “Reasons”. What memories this concert brought back to me; of my first love and of the illusions of the ones in between my last. The concert caused me to reflect on what romancing is all about, what good dance music feels like and what talent without computer generated chords sounds like.
Earth, Wind and Fire entertained their fans and Duke Ellington School of the Arts supporters for approximately 90 minutes with about a fifteen minute break during which the students of Ellington performed a fast paced and high energy dance and choral number backed by a student ensemble of brass horns and trombones that were very gifted musicians. The Ellington student body is comprised of some of the country’s most promising talent. A production of Dream’s Girl’s last year would give the play on Broadway a good run for its money.
I commend Earth, Wind and Fire for their generosity of time and energy to perform a benefit concert for the Duke Ellington School. The school has produced such talents as Opera Star Denyce Graves and Comedienne Dave Chapelle. Formed in 1968 as a dream of Peggy Cooper Cafritz and the late Mike Malone, it began as a workshop for careers in the arts and today is not only a teaching place for talented singers, dancers, actors, designers and others but it is one of the nation’s capitol best schools for academic excellence. The school’s mission is: “to nurture and inspire passion for arts and learning in talented students who might not otherwise have an opportunity to develop their artistic kills; to ensure that Ellington students are prepared for postsecondary education and/or careers in the arts by offering an intensive arts based program; to prepare Willington students to become productive citizens in our global society through a strong focus on community service”.
Earth, Wind & Fire is an Grammy award winning band whose longevity has transition as Ellington Head of School, Rory Pullens stated through the forty five, album, 8 track, cassette and CD media. I commend and thank them not only for an amazing performance but for spending approximately five hours of their time on Thursday at the school working with Ellington students to prepare them for their intermission performance. So many successful entertainers forget from whence they came, forget those that come behind them and often the fans that made their success.” The Earth, Wind & Fire joined their musical talent, dance, and entertainment skills to make myself and others in the Concert Hall at the Kennedy Center forget it was raining outside. The elements of Verdine, Philip, Robert and the band were like bright and shining stars, illuminating the reflection of our past and inspiring and supporting the stars that will remind us and the students of Ellington to “Keep Our Heads to the Sky”.
If you would like to learn more or make a financial contribution to the Ellington School for the Arts, please call the Ellington Fund (202) 333-2555, email: email@example.com, or visit www.ellingtonschool.org.