It was a bucket list trip for 45 singers from Liberty this Memorial Day.
The group auditioned and earned the chance to sing at the Kennedy Center as a part of this year’s National Memorial Day Choral Festival and the centennial celebration of the birth of John F. Kennedy.
The singers included 35 from the Liberty United Methodist Chancel Choir and 15 from the Liberty Community Chorus. Both groups are directed by Bryan Taylor.
“We were selected last summer. We’ve had all year to prepare for it,” Taylor said.
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The Liberty singers joined 320 other singers from choirs across the country in a concert the Saturday before Memorial Day attended by about 2,100 people. The former director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Craig Jessop, directed the large choir, which backed up the United States Air Force Symphony Orchestra playing patriotic favorites. The group also sang two songs dedicated to the memory of John F. Kennedy which contained the text from his speeches.
Taylor said singing at the Kennedy Center was a highlight for the choir.
“There are some pretty spectacular people who have gone through there and I think you get a sense of the dreams of JFK and how important the arts are in our country when you walk in the building. It just has a sense of patriotic pride,” Taylor said.
The choir also sang at the nationally televised opening for the National Memorial Day parade on Monday and placed a wreath at the Missouri pillar of the World War II memorial. Those were all scheduled as a part of the music festival, but Taylor said a highlight of the experience was something unplanned.
“We were at the airport getting ready to head home,” Taylor said. “There was a guy playing patriotic music on a French horn. I went to tell him thank you and he told us there was an Honor Flight coming through on the way back to Austin, Texas.”
An Honor Flight takes groups of American veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit memorials dedicated to honor the wars in which they fought.
The singers had time to stop and sing “America The Beautiful” to that group of World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War veterans — all Purple Heart recipients, on their way home from their Washington experience.
“You don’t forget the feeling of those mountaintop experiences,” Taylor said. “In our time of political polarization, it reminded us of a lot of things that we’re proud of our country for. Getting to help with the Honor Flight and help them celebrate who they are was really amazing.”