Two years ago I had lunch with Steve Milloy at the GALA Leadership Symposium in Cleveland. While chatting Steve asked if I would be interested in commissioning a musical oratorio on the life of gay, African American civil rights activist Bayard Rustin. I said yes immediately; I’m pretty sure he hadn’t even finished the sentence! I have been fascinated by Bayard Rustin’s story for decades. Rustin was a Quaker and mentor to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and he was the organizer of the 1963 March on Washington. Why is his name not known widely? In spite of his incredible gifts, Rustin was hidden in the movement because he was a gay man.
This is my 22nd year as Artistic Director for One Voice Mixed Chorus, Minnesota’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and allies chorus. I have programmed many interesting concerts but this new commission, “The Man Behind the Dream”, has stolen my heart. Singing this music from the civil rights movement has felt like the perfect antidote to the messages of fear and hate that have been prevalent in our media this fall.
The 14-movement composition incorporates both Bayard Rustin’s story and actual quotes from his speeches. The libretto, by visual and performance artist Vanessa German has made me laugh, cry and shake my head in wonder. Composer Steve Milloy’s music runs from ragtime to rock to spirituals and civil rights songs. One Voice singers join with Central High School choir for a total of 170 singers on stage accompanied by a live band and projections featuring photos, quotes and video from the civil rights movement. Steve composed the piece to incorporate two soloists/storytellers so I immediately called actor T. Mychael Rambo and he jumped at the chance to participate. He and Aimee K. Bryant offer their stunning voices to Rustin’s story.
One Voice Mixed Chorus premieres this new commission at the Ordway Concert Hall January 14 and 15, 2017 as part of a larger concert called Out of the Shadows, a choral tribute to African-American artists and activists. Featured composers include Ysaye Barnwell, Rosephanye Powell, Sam Cooke, and Billy Strayhorn. It was also important to me that this concert be available to anyone that wants to attend. As a result, One Voice is performing a FREE hour-long performance of “The Man Behind the Dream” at South High School at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, January 16, MLK Day.The Sunday, January 15 concert will be live broadcast from the One Voice Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/