“There was by no means truly a lot critical dialog about not doing it — for us, actually for the final 14 months, we’ve actually been taking it at some point at a time,” mentioned Deborah F. Rutter, the middle’s president, in an interview. “That is about artists creating one thing out of limitations.”

However organizers had been decided to barrel ahead with a small ceremony, nevertheless delayed and nevertheless restricted, to protect the custom of honoring a handful of artists for lifetime achievements. Plans repeatedly modified with shifting federal steerage and well being tips, and high officers, in providing opening remarks, joked concerning the variety of instances they conferred with the honorees about easy methods to make the ceremony possible.

But the 5 artists — a few of whom had participated in earlier ceremonies as a part of tributes — appeared moved by not solely the popularity of their life’s work, however a much more intimate celebration that allowed them to spend time with one another and their family members, as a substitute of being shuttled individually between occasions.

“We’ve been hanging out,” Allen mentioned, calling it a “cohesive, pretty half” of being a part of the group. Brooks added that “we bought to maneuver at our personal tempo,” one thing that allowed him to “depart right here as a fan of those folks greater than a fellow honoree.” (At one level, as Brooks helped him down a staircase, Van Dyke cheerfully hummed the “Bridal Refrain.”)

If the pandemic made this a most uncommon yr for the awards, in no less than one space issues appeared to return to regular: President Biden held the standard reception for the honorees on the White Home, one thing former President Donald Trump didn’t do throughout his 4 years in workplace.

Baez mentioned she sang a verse of the civil-rights anthem “Ain’t Gonna Let No person Flip Me Round” within the Oval Workplace, and he or she repeated it for reporters, her unmistakable soprano echoing within the empty opera home.