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The 2020 National Memorial Day Concert

Daniel Hautzinger
A bugler in front of the U.S. Capitol. Photo: Capitol Concerts
Photo: Capitol Concerts

The National Memorial Day Concert airs Sunday, May 24 at 7:00 pm on WTTW and Facebook and is re-broadcast on WTTW immediately afterwards, at 8:30 pm. 

The National Memorial Day Concert broadcast live from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol is a hallmark of the end of the school year and the beginning of summer. In this unprecedented year, however, it must adapt to the necessary public health restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic. While there will be no concert on the West Lawn, the broadcast will still happen, with performances and appearances by all manner of actors, musicians, and members of the military from separate locations. Not only will the program honor the military; this year it will also give thanks to first responders, doctors, nurses, grocery store workers, postal workers, and all other manner of essential workers risking their health during the pandemic. 

Here are the performers and others who will appear in this unique National Memorial Day Concert.

Joe Mantegna and Gary Sinise

Joe Mantegna and Gary Sinise. Photo: Capitol ConcertsPhoto: Capitol Concerts

These two hard-bitten Chicagoland natives have hosted the National Memorial Day Concert for a number of years. Both actors got their start in Chicago’s theater scene –  Mantegna won his break in a production of David Mamet’s Glengarry Glenn Ross, Sinise co-founded the Steppenwolf Theatre Company – and later played cops on TV shows: Sinise on CSI: NY, Mantegna on Criminal Minds

General Colin L. Powell

Colin Powell. Photo: Capitol ConcertsPhoto: Capitol Concerts

A retired four-star general, Powell served in the upper echelons of government for decades, including as Secretary of State under George W. Bush. 

Cynthia Erivo

Cynthia Erivo. Photo: Capitol ConcertsPhoto: Capitol Concerts

The young British actress and singer Erivo first made her name on stage, in The Color Purple, but she has also broken through on the big and small screen, notably starring in last year's Harriet Tubman biopic Tubman, a role for which she garnered Oscar nods. She's already won the other three big performing awards: Tony, Emmy, and Grammy.

Sam Elliott

Sam Elliott. Photo: Capitol ConcertsPhoto: Capitol Concerts

Elliott's long career has ranged from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid to TV shows and cult classics to A Star Is Born, which garnered him an Oscar nomination.

Laurence Fishburne

Laurence Fishburne. Photo: Art StreiberPhoto: Art Streiber

Like Sinise and Mantegna, Fishburne is a distinguished actor on both stage and screen, known for films like Boyz n the Hood and an adaptation of Othello, who has also found popular success in TV shows like CSI and the John Wick and Marvel franchises.

Mary McCormack

Mary McCormack. Photo: Capitol ConcertsPhoto: Capitol Concerts

McCormack is a veteran National Memorial Day Concert performer. She has appeared in TV shows such as The West Wing and The Kids Are Alright as well as various films, including Deep Impact and True Crime.

Renée Fleming

Renee Fleming. Photo: Capitol ConcertsPhoto: Capitol Concerts

Fleming is well-known to Chicagoans from her long association with the Lyric Opera (read an interview with her by our sister station WFMT on the occasion of her 25th anniversary with the Lyric). The renowned opera star has also ventured onto Broadway and into popular genres.

Trace Adkins

Trace Adkins. Photo: Chase LauerPhoto: Chase Lauer

The deep-voiced Adkins is a wide-selling country star who has been a recognizable presence in Nashville for over 25 years.

CeCe Winans

CeCe Winans. Photo: Capitol ConcertsPhoto: Capitol Concerts

She's the most-awarded female gospel artist of all time who became popular through both solo recordings and in duets with her brother BeBe.

Esai Morales

Esai Morales. Photo: Capitol ConcertsPhoto: Capitol Concerts

Morales has appeared in everything from the film La Bamba to NYPD Blue to the Netflix series Ozark, as well as the pioneering PBS series American Family.

Kelli O'Hara

Kelli O'Hara. Photo: Emilio MadridPhoto: Emilio Madrid

O'Hara is best-known for appearances on Broadway in musicals like The King and I and The Light in the Piazza, but she has also performed in operas at the Met and had roles in TV shows like Masters of Sex and 13 Reasons Why.

Christopher Jackson

Christopher Jackson. Photo: Capitol ConcertsPhoto: Capitol Concerts

Jackson played George Washington in Hamilton, has appeared in numerous TV shows, written music for both Sesame Street and, among others, and provided a singing voice for Moana.

Members of the National Symphony Orchestra and Jack Everly

The evening is rounded out by Washington’s National Symphony under the baton of Jack Everly, who is in demand around the world as a pops conductor. They are a stalwart regular of the National Memorial Day Concert.