The National Symphony Orchestra and a slate of DC go-go artists will perform a concert celebrating DC’s official music on Thursday, September 22 at 7:30 PM. The free show at the Entertainment & Sports Arena (1100 Oak Dr., SE) in Congress Heights will feature a full orchestra conducted by Kellen Gray, plus go-go acts Sirius Company, Leroy “Weensey” Brandon, Kenicia “Kee Kee” Taylor, and others . The orchestra will first play a set of popular music spanning everything from Beethoven to James Brown. Then, the 40-piece ensemble will be joined by musicians for some go-go hits.
The event is a part of the NSO’s In Your Neighborhood initiative, which brings free performances, educational programming, and musical collaborations to neighborhoods across the District. This year’s theme, East of the River, brings a wide range of programming to Anacostia, Congress Heights, and other neighborhoods located east of the Anacostia River.
For NSO artistic administrator Justin Ellis, preserving and celebrating go-go has been a central part of In Your Neighborhood’s mission. “We knew that we wanted to feature the orchestra and give people a diverse range of exposures that represent the orchestral canon, and then we wanted to engage with a local go-go band,” he says.
The event’s co-curator, Ronald Moten of #DontMuteDC–who also helps represent go-go as a part of the Kennedy Center’s Culture Caucus–was one of the key figures who helped create the unexpected musical collaboration. He sees the week of programming and tonight’s performance as the Kennedy Center fulfilling a promise to bring the institution to a more diverse range of DC residents. He’s also thrilled that the event is family-friendly and free for anyone who wants to attend.
“I know tonight is going to bring different people together who would never be in the same room, ” he says. “That’s the healing and social power of music.”