Bayard Rustin was a Quaker and mentor to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and he was the organizer of the 1963 March on Washington. In spite of his incredible gifts, Rustin was hidden in the movement because he was a gay man. Now, composer Steve Milloy has created a 14-movement composition, “The Man Behind the Dream,” based on the life of Bayard Rustin. The work was commissioned by One Voice Mixed Chorus, Minnesota’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and allies chorus. In my 22 years as artistic director for One Voice Mixed Chorus, I have programmed many interesting concerts, but this new commission 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 libretto, by African-American artist Vanessa German, has made me laugh, cry and shake my head in wonder. 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. Actor T. Mychael Rambo and Aimee K. Bryant offer their stunning voices as soloists/storytellers.
One Voice Mixed Chorus premieres this new commission at the Ordway Concert Hall Jan. 14 and 15, 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. Since it was important to me that this concert be available to everyone, 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, Jan. 16, MLK Day.
Artistic Director of One Voice Mixed Chorus Jane Ramseyer Miller lives in Powderhorn surrounded by great neighbors.