The Stars Come Out for PBS’ NYE Special
December 29, 2021 @ 12:00pm
With many people choosing to be a bit more conservative in their New Year’s Eve plans, looking to avoid crowds and enjoy a comfy night at home, a great way to welcome in 2022 is by watching the annual PBS New Year’s Eve concert.
This year’s special, “United in Song: Celebrating the American Dream,” will be hosted by Chita Rivera and features a myriad of top stars from stage and screen, including: David Archuleta, Jencarlos Canela, Judy Collins, Deborah Cox, Lea Salonga and Brandee Younger, with D.C.’s American Pops Orchestra under the baton of Maestro Luke Frazier providing accompaniment.
“Last year, we did a show for them, which we filmed in Mount Vernon, so this year, PBS asked us if we could cook something up again, so of course we said yes, but I wanted to choose a different historic site,” Frazier says. “We got approval to use Independence Hall, which was pretty exciting to tie back to the founding of our country.”
He set out to create a night where the focus of the script and the narrative of the whole evening was in celebrating the American Dream.
“When you think of New Year’s Eve concerts or really any sort of holiday concerts, I’ve often found they tend to have a narrow lens for which they’re created, but this is New Year’s Eve for our country, and we’re hoping that every state and territory, and even internationally watch us,” Frazier says. “So, if I didn’t do justice to representing the broadest section of our country, then how can we expect folks to want to watch. We want people to feel seen, heard and represented.”
That’s why the star-studded performance is filled with a collection of artists from different cultures with different perspectives. For instance, Native American Indigenous voices are represented by Delbert Anderson, a noted Native American trumpeter.
The night also features UN Messenger of Peace Midori; internationally celebrated guitarist Pepe Romero; celebrated harpist Brandee Younger; and a newly commissioned performance by The Washington Ballet to the music of Scott Joplin.
“When you watch the show, you won’t see the same performer do two songs back to back,” Frazier says. “They are woven together purposely, so the evening has a flow and a voice and a vision. It’s not just a variety show for variety-show sake. And who better than an icon like Chita Rivera to weave it all together.”
David Rubenstein — the revered moderator and author — will also be asking questions to the performers throughout the night.
“This is a show that will be fun for all ages and fun for all cultures, and people will see themselves represented and feel heard and seen,” Frazier says. “The hope is this will bring us all together to celebrate our heritage and move our country forward together, and we can do that through the arts.”
“United in Song: Celebrating the American Dream” will run from 9 to 10:30 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, with a repeat showing from 10:30-midnight — just in time to welcome in what we all hope will be a healthier and happier new year.
“What is sadly so overlooked is for so much of our country without easy access to performing arts, or the income to pay for ticket prices, very quickly as the pandemic started to change and evolve, accessibility to the arts started to change again,” Frazier says. “One of the things I’m very happy about is this is a program where we are getting the top of the top artists, and it’s a show that’s free that anyone can watch at home or on a device online.”
“United in Song: Celebrating the American Dream” premieres on PBS this Friday, December 31 at 9 p.m.