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At 85, Barbara Cook Joins the Supremes

Where to hear some great music in the nation's capital?

If you're a fan of orchestral music, opera, jazz or musical theater, there's The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Should you prefer a more intimate venue, there's Blues Alley. But would you ever think of the U.S. Supreme Court? Highly doubtful, to say the least.


As it turns out, however, the court's nine justices aren't so completely consumed with weighty matters that they can't take an occasional afternoon break to enjoy some live music. On May 16, for example, they played host to Broadway legend  Barbara Cook, 85, who won a Tony Award back in 1957 for her portrayal of Marian the Librarian in the original production of The Music Man. Cook was accompanied by a band that included jazz guitarist John Pizzarelli as she performed old standards such as "Bye Bye Blackbird," "Let's Fall in Love," "I've Got Rhythm," and "Makin' Whoopie," according to  Legal Times.  

Cook's choice for her final number, though, was a bit surprising: " Imagine," John Lennon's quasi-anarchist anthem to the abolition of private property, religion and national governments. As the Wall Street Journal noted, the song's sentiments were "strikingly at odds with court precedents granting privileges to religious institutions, enshrining property rights and limiting the reach of international law." Nevertheless, Cook's emotion-packed rendition apparently pleased the justices, who reportedly responded with an standing ovation.

The master of ceremonies was Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who in 2002 took over running the recital series that was started in 1988 by the late Justice Harry Blackmun, a music lover who brought such performers as singer and pianist Bobby Short to the court. Other performers who've appeared before the court include piano legend Marian McPartland and opera superstar Renee Fleming.

If you missed Cook's performance at the court, as we did, here she is at the Tony Awards back in 1987.


Photo: Cook in 2009 by David Shankbone (via Wikipedia)


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