- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 6, 2007

No thanks, ma’am

Actress Helen Mirren, who won an Oscar for her film portrayal of Britain’sQueen Elizabeth II, turned down an invitation for dinner at Buckingham Palace, the Mail on Sunday newspaper reported.

Miss Mirren, star of “The Queen,” declined the monarch’s rare invite because she was busy filming her new movie, “National Treasure: Book of Secrets,” in the United States, the paper said.

“It is unheard of for her majesty to extend a personal invitation to dinner to someone who has portrayed her in a film,” it quoted a senior palace official as saying.

“We did not expect to be told that the date is unacceptable.”

Miss Mirren told the paper that she was invited to dinner at the palace on May 1 but could not attend because she was filming and could not change her schedule.

In her Oscar acceptance speech after being named best actress in February, Miss Mirren paid tribute to Queen Elizabeth, 81, as a woman who for half a century “has maintained her dignity, her sense of duty, and her hairstyle.”

“I salute her courage and her consistency,” she said, hoisting her Oscar aloft. “And I thank her, because if it wasn’t for her, I most certainly would not be here.”

The queen is the guest of honor tonight at a White House state dinner.

NSO to honor Slava

The cellists of the National Symphony will open a tribute concert to cellist Mstislav “Slava” Rostropovich, the orchestra’s former music director who died in his native Russia on April 27 at age 80, Associated Press reports.

The free concert, scheduled for May 19 at the Kennedy Center, will begin with an ensemble arrangement of the Sarabande from Bach’s D major suite for unaccompanied cello.

The program, with music director Leonard Slatkin leading the orchestra, will include the Largo from Symphony No. 5 by Dimitri Shostakovich, whom Mr. Rostropovich considered his musical father.

Also included: Leonard Bernstein’s overture “Slava!” which was composed to honor Mr. Rostropovich’s first season with the National Symphony, and the finale from Tchaikovsky’s “Pathetique” Symphony. The symphony was the last piece Mr. Rostropovich conducted in Russia before going into exile in 1974. He also placed it on the first program he would conduct in Russia in 1990, during his triumphant return with the National Symphony. The tribute will close with a recording of Mr. Rostropovich playing the same Sarabande that opens the tribute, orchestra officials said last week.

Mr. Rostropovich, who made his name as one of the world’s greatest cellists, also battled for human rights in the former Soviet Union.

He was music director of the National Symphony from 1977 to 1994 and then was named conductor laureate.

Helping out

Singer Harry Connick Jr. wielded a paintbrush. R&B; heartthrob John Legend did a little laundry.

The two were among the musicians performing at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and giving back to a region still trying to recover from Hurricane Katrina.

Dozens of volunteers worked on homes Saturday, the penultimate day of the festival, in the Musicians’ Village. Mr. Connick started with saxophonist Branford Marsalis to help displaced musicians and keep the musical traditions of his hometown alive.

“It’s not about guilt,” he said from the front porch of one of the candy-colored, shotgun houses that stick out among the vacant houses and empty, overgrown lots in this storm-ravaged section of the Upper 9th Ward. “I just don’t want to see it go away.”

Mr. Connick said he envisioned a village made up not only of houses but also of cafes, jazz clubs, mom-and-pop businesses and a music center for children — a community where children can ride their bikes down the streets “all the while hearing music.”

Mr. Legend washed clothes as part of a free mobile laundry service for families still living in federally issued trailers in hard-hit St. Bernard Parish. Not all trailers that hurricane-affected families live in come equipped with washers and dryers.

Other musicians also gave back: Marcia Ball, Joss Stone, Ivan Neville, Bonnie Raitt, Henry Butler, Norah Jones and Walter “Wolfman” Washington are among the performers pledging to raise money for instruments for performers and students attending New Orleans area schools.

Compiled by Kevin Chaffee from wire reports.

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