As Librarian of Congress James H. Billing put it the other day, “This really will be Wonder Week in Washington.”
That’s Stevie Wonder of course.
The 58-year-old singer, whose music was the backdrop for many of Barack Obama’s campaign appearances, will be honored tonight at the White House as now President Obama presents him with the Library of Congress’ second Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. (The prize was first awarded in 2007, to Paul Simon.)
Wonder teared up Monday as he debuted a classical song at the Library’s Coolidge Auditorium. Accompanied by a 21-piece chamber ensemble, he played the piano, an electric keyboard and his trademark harmonica. Tonight he headlines a White House concert that also features Tony Bennett, Martina McBride and will.i.am.
The event — staged in the East Room — is part of a new, hipper, more exuberant tone in White House socializing. At Sunday’s state dinner for the nation’s governors, Social Secretary Desiree Rogers did away with the traditional row of chairs where guests have watched concerts in the past and brought in a dance floor so even governors worried about their states’ economies could shake it up as Earth Wind & Fire did their thing.
Rogers promised more surprises ahead. “We’ll continue to look for ways for people to say, ’Wow!’ and have a good time,” she said.