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Yo-Yo Ma, Barbara Cook tapped for Kennedy Center Honors

September 7, 2011 |  8:53 am

Yo Yo Ma
The 34th annual Kennedy Center Honors have announced this year's honorees and as always, arts A-listers will share the evening with pop culture icons. The Dec. 4 ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts will celebrate singer Barbara Cook, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, saxophonist and composer Sonny Rollins, singer and songwriter Neil Diamond and actress Meryl Streep.

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will be seated with the honorees during the televised ceremony, traditionally a star-laden evening of colorful speeches and performances.

“This year, the Kennedy Center celebrates its 40th anniversary by selecting five extraordinary
individuals whose collective artistry has contributed significantly to the cultural life of our nation and
the world,” said Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein.

“With her sublime voice and rich performances, Barbara Cook has defined all that is best and brightest in the Great American Songbook. Neil Diamond’s songwriting genius has created one of the most enduring catalogs of American popular music and his live performances have captivated audiences for five decades.

"Yo-Yo Ma’s sterling musicianship makes him one of the most versatile and popular classical music performers in the world and his Silk Road Project has inspired students across the world to love and honor music. Saxophonist Sonny Rollins’ masterful improvisation and powerful presence have infused the truly American art form of jazz with passion and energy. The sheer brilliance and breadth of Meryl Streep’s performances count as one of the most exhilarating cultural spectacles of our time.”

Southern California audiences will have a chance to see Rollins this month at UCLA Live (Sept. 22) and Segerstrom Hall (Sept. 25). Barbara Cook will return to the L.A. area in May for a performance at the Valley Performing Arts Center.

-- Sherry Stern

Photo: Yo-Yo-Ma playing with the Silk Road Ensemble at Walt Disney Concert Hall in April. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times