Kevin McCarthy - US Congressional Majority Whip
Kevin Spacey Foundation Gala 2014
As the concert for my Foundation in Washington, DC approached, I’d begun to think that perhaps I’d bitten off more than I could chew. The last concert I did was in Miami last April. This was when I was asked by Adrianne Arsht to headline the annual benefit for the theatre center her name adorns in Miami. I had the most wonderful time putting that concert together – with Gregg Field (my musical director and drummer) and Shelly Berman (as my pianist).
One of the big differences that I was feeling between these two events, as September 29th approached, was remembering how relaxed and easy the evening in Miami was shaping up – versus the enormous challenge I was facing with the DC event. First, Miami offered me nearly 3 weeks of glorious time in that most of relaxed cities; walks on the beach on beautiful sunny afternoons with my new dog, Boston. Great meals at some of the more entrancing venues; tennis nearly everyday and an easy series of musical rehearsals without anything on the agenda but the time we committed to getting the show right.
The Washington concert was an entirely different story. First I was more than three months into shooting our 3rd season on the Netflix series “House of Cards” and was shooting all during the week prior – for around 12 to 13 hours each day. After I would wrap from shooting I would walk to a different stage from the one where we were shooting, where Gregg Field (once again my musical director), had gathered the core musicians and back-up singers for a 2-hour rehearsal – every night – for the week leading up to our September 29th engagement at the Harmon Theatre in DC. The weather had also turned from summer into a rather chilly fall and so many on our crew on “Cards” had gotten sick during this week and on the Friday before our big night, I started to feel a little bug – right in my throat. Not where you want to feel a budding cold a few days before you have to sing 22 numbers.
By the time we got to Washington, DC on the Saturday to rehearse at the Harmon, my little bug had grown into a full blown vocal spider, weaving its way around my ability to hit the high notes and causing a serious panic. In other words, I couldn’t sing fully and with the strength required. And I continued not to be able to hit the high notes on Sunday and during Monday’s dress rehearsal – with the entire 40-piece orchestra, strings and back-up singers all together for the first time.
Then after the run-through on Monday, the marvelous Patti Austin, my lead back-up singer (featured in “20 Feet From Stardom”), came to me and suggested her “secret formula” to help my vocals. She said it’s the one the major opera singers at the Met use and had helped her several times in the past going from not being able to perform to an almost miracle cure in a matter of hours. And so we stirred up this concoction and I gargled a number of times with the brew that is true – and by the time I got the sound check 4 hours later and an hour before the concert – miraculously –I was finally able to hit the high notes; for the first time since Friday night. Back-up singers know everything and Ms. Austin knows even more.
The concert began and after the first two songs I still felt unsure about the quality of my voice, so I just decided that honest was the best policy. I told the sold-out audience about the little vocal devil that had lodged in my throat and assured them that if I didn’t hit the high notes, I knew it before they did. They laughed and then couldn’t have been more encouraging and that gave me confidence to carry on. I also think that sharing publicly what was going on with me privately released me from worry and over the course of the next two hours my voice got stronger and stronger. By the time we finished the two big encores at the end of the night (“Hi-Dee-Ho and “Bridge Over Troubled Water”), with a brilliant 15 piece choir – it was clear that I’d kicked that little bug out onto F Street.
The crowd was on their feet and I felt I’d managed to get through the challenge of putting on a good show. The band was fantastic, the three short films we showed about the work the Foundation does went down well and I couldn’t have been prouder to have Adrianne Arsht as my Chairman. I even managed to bring the Republicans and Democrats together in Congressman Kevin McCarthy and Congressman Steny Hoyer agreeing to be the Co-Chairs for the night. We raised a great amount for the Foundation and I am forever grateful to Steve Winter (who runs the Foundation), and his staff, for all the preparation, attention given to our sponsors, all the press who covered the concert and - mostly - the audience, who came out on a Monday night to support an event for arts and education.
I’m grateful to Michael Kahn, Artistic Director of the Shakespeare Theatre for allowing us to use their great stage. While it normally rocks every night to the rhythm of the Bard, for this night the theatre welcomed the rhythms of Billy Joel and Frank Sinatra and for me, was a terrific way to launch a beautiful Fall in our Nations Capitol.