It might be considered risky to try and surprise someone over 90, but as Tyler Perry pointed out, Cicely Tyson is one tough cookie. The Kennedy Center Honors performance of "Blessed Assurance" for Cicely Tyson shocked and delighted the honoree, partially because most of the performers came from an organization that she is passionate about. The Cicely Tyson School of Performing and Fine Arts Middle and High School Choir joined jazz musician Terence Blanchard and gospel singer CeCe Winans on stage. The best thing about it was that Tyson did not seem to be expecting this at all. Watching living legends gasp with surprise and delight is easily one of the highlights of the Kennedy Center Honors every year, and this performance brought that element in spades.
The New Jersey school was founded and named for Tyson in 1995. Why "Blessed Assurance?" The hymn was performed during Tyson's Broadway run in A Trip To The Bountiful with such enthusiasm that the audience often joined in. The same was true at the Kennedy Center Honors. Many audience members participated, and Tyson herself jumped up and jumped in as well.
In addition to the surprise, both Viola Davis and Kerry Washington spoke in honor of the actress who has dazzled screens for decades. Blanchard also performed "My Funny Valentine" while Washington talked about Tyson's marriage to the late Miles Davis.