Look What A Wonder Jesus Has Done
A love story twisted by slavery
St. Clements Theater
423 W. 46th Street at 9th Avenue
New York, NY 10019
All Tickets $20
To purchase tickets, go to www.nymf.org
Sept 19 @ 8p, Sept 22 @ 5p, Sept 26 @ 9p, Sept 27 @ 5p, Sept 29 @ 9p & Sept 30 @ 4:30p
“I believe that Look What A Wonder will be a significant and important break-through for music in America and for all who care for an understanding of Black people and White people, our shared past and shared destiny.”
Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Nat Turner and Sophie’s Choice
“A gospel Jesus Christ Superstar!”
– The New York Times
“An artistic achievement of the highest quality and merit. An allegory for our time ”
– Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
A story. . .that needs to be told and retold to our children and to all Americans.”
– Oskar Eustis
Artistic Director, Public Theater
Sculpture: “Slave in Revolt” by Karl Broodhagen, Barbados
Photograph by R. Norman Matheny.
Used with the kind permission of the National Cultural Foundation, Barbados Government.
Look What A Wonder Jesus Has Done translates the pathos of slavery into the story of one leader’s struggle for personal redemption and collective justice.
“The production surpasses its strictly gospel roots and bursts into thrilling theatricality…a terrific ensemble and dynamic performances.”
“A refreshingly honest change of pace…soulfelt and true … ”
“…has all the ingredients of a Broadway multi-year run.”
John Budris, Christian Science Monitor
“Roof-raising ensemble numbers … that soar to the heavens…richly evocative.”
FYI ON TITLE CHANGE
The title is taken from an old slave hymn and reflects the fact that Vesey’s conspiracy was largely plotted from within his first independent Black church attended by Slaves and free Blacks. This church line eventually became Mother Emmanuel AME, where in 2015 nine parishioners were massacred by a White Supremest youth during a bible study. However, the composer decided to change the title going forward to Look What A Wonder so as not to confuse the work as being religious or prostelitizing which it never has been. This simple name change then opened the door for Look What A Wonder to be performed at scores schools across the country without restriction or question.
Walter Robinson is a composer, lyricist, writer, producer, and journalist.
As a composer he is best recognized for his children’s song “Harriet Tubman” which has become an American Folk Classic and is sung by children internationally. Harriet Tubman is published by Hal Leonard and the work is also scored for full orchestra and chorus, and is distributed by R. Schirmer, Inc. NYC.
Robinson’s earliest music education was as a double bassist. During middle school he studied classical string bass with Ferdinand Maresh of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and, thru Maresh, audited rehearsal performance time in the Curtis School of Music Orchestra in Philadelphia. Simultaneously, Robinson played in a jazz quintet led by Carl Grubbs, nephew of John Coltrane. Robinson, also a jazz bass student of Jimmy Garrison John Coltrane’s bassist, had the indelible experience as a youth to “sit in” with John Coltrane on bass at The Five Spot in NYC.
After working to pay for his first two years of college, he earned a two year full scholarship and completed a BA as double major in Music and Psychology at Temple University. He then attended Boston’s New England Conservatory of Music Graduate School in Music Composition. Robinson’s early lyricist education was enriched by the mentorship of world-renowned Jewish lyricist E.Y. “Yip” Harburg, who wrote the lyrics to “Over The Rainbow.” Robinson recounts asking Harburg: “What was the greatest song ever written? to have Harburg answer by singing the slave spiritual “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” This relationship empowered Robinson to prioritize the rich legacy of Negro spirituals as inspiration for his original music.
Now, having turned solely to music composition, Robinson was honored with an unsolicited appointment of Composer-In-Residence and Research Fellow at the internationally known W. E. B. Dubois Institute for Afro-American Research, Harvard University for eight years. During this time, Robinson researched and wrote the libretto, music, and lyrics to a gospel folk opera, based on the Denmark Vesey Slave Conspiracy of 1822 entitled Look What A Wonder. Look What A Wonder won over 21 grants and prizes during development alone, including the prestigious National Endowment of the Arts Composer-Librettist Award. Carnegie patron, GoGo Fergusson funded Robinson on three-week research trip to the Carnegie’s formerly privately owned Cumberland Is which held rich artifacts from slavery. This research trip which included research time in Charleston, SC and in the South Carolina low country was featured in an article in TIME Magazine.
What A Wonder was chosen out 400 international submissions and was given a World Off Broadway Premiere in the prestigious New York Music Theater Festival. The New York Times described the work as: “ A Gospel Jesus Christ Super Star!”
Look What A Wonder was optioned by Broadway producers who, then, unable to get it capitalized for a Broadway run, told Robinson: “ A musical about a Black revolutionary is not entertainment and would never sell tickets on Broadway.”
Notwithstanding, Boston Philanthropist Seth Klarman, thru the curriculum development non profit, Facing History and Ourselves, funded Look What A Wonder on a National Concert Tour to Memphis, Cleveland, LA, SF, Chicago, and Boston, which in turn generated more national concert performances in Seattle, Philadelphia, Charleston, Memphis, Cincinnati, Lewiston, ME and Martha’s Vineyard. Five New England independent schools hosted performances. These were: Concord Academy, The Parks School, Fessenden, Exeter, and Buckingham Brown and Nichols.
Robinson then won the highly competitive Meet The Composer Residency Award, the largest US grant given directly to composers. The grant funded Robinson full time for three consecutive years to compose MOSES A Gospel Opera. This work featured “The Ten Commandments,” later performed by the world famous Boston Pops Symphony Orchestra with the 150-voice Tanglewood Festival Chorus at Symphony Hall, Boston. The world premiere of “MOSES The Gospel Opera” featured a cast of 200 performers, with Rabbis and Black ministers narrating and a 70-voice Black urban and White Jewish children’s choir. MOSES The Gospel Opera sold out performances at the downtown Boston’s Cutler Majestic Theater with great reviews. Walter Robinson and MOSES The Gospel Opera were featured in a Boston Sunday Globe front-page article, The New York Times and in American Theater Magazine. Following, the late Myra Kraft and her husband, Robert Kraft funded an Ethiopian orphan children’s choir, Yemin Orde, to fly from Israel to Chicago to perform excerpts from MOSES The Gospel Opera with the outstanding Black urban children’s choir, The Soul Children of Chicago, at The General Assembly of World Jews at the Chicago Convention Center. The Kraft funding also brought in Ailey dancers from NYC and a cast of eight from Boston, MA.
Stephen Spielberg’s personal foundation, The Righteous Persons Foundation unsolicited, then called Robinson and asked if they could help further the development of MOSES The Gospel Opera. This lead to the evolution of MOSES, a Broadway genre musical with a reduced cast of 26. MOSES is not religious, but dramatizes an anti-drug message with a spiritual theme of “honesty.” Two subsequent Spielberg gifts, were matched with gifts of $100k each from the Boston Black Mega church New Covenant Church and from R. Ross Love a Black Cincinnati philanthropist, and enabled Robinson to developed the dance portion of MOSES with eight first company Alvin Ailey dancers with performances in Chicago, Martha’s Vineyard, Cincinnati, and New York City at the JCC in Manhattan and the Ailey Theater.
Robinson then joined his in-law Philippine family for one decade in the Philippines where he wrote, directed, scored and produced anti-sex trafficking radio a and TV ads, entitled Love Rescues. MOSES with a Philippine cast was showcased at the USA Embassy in Manila, hosted by USA Envoy to the Philippines, African American, Harry Thomas, an Obama appointee.
Robinson and his Philippine wife and their son returned to the US in April of 2018 to attend the VIP opening of Brian Stevenson’s Equal Justice Initiative’s Peace and Justice Monument in Montgomery Alabama. Vernon Jordan, then introduced Robinson’s Denmark Vesey work Look What A Wonder to Ford Foundation President, Darren Walker who via his Ford Foundation office, funded a Look What A Wonder revival August 2019 on Martha’s Vineyard to excellent reviews.
For mid-2021, both Look What A Wonder and MOSES was now are being prepared for fully staged productions via filming without audiences to potentially be distributed via either Nat Geo or Netflix. Both works will have study guides informed by curriculum work of Bryan Steven’s EJI and The Southern Poverty Law Center which underscore the social justice themes in each musical.
- Writer of a 1000-word article for the Christian Science Monitor published January 15th on MLK’s Birthday. This article revisits the MLK /George Wallace Jr rivalry and Wallace’s dramatic apology in 1979.
- Contributor for 2500-word article for Christian Science Monitor article published Monday January 18th entitled: “Plantation tours bypass the ‘big house’ to focus on the enslaved” This article looks at slavery from the slave’s point of view at a tourist site.
- My musical MOSES was selected to be in the South Eastern Theater Conference on March 3-7 in North Carolina. I am currently working with Black director Brian Martin at Alalabama State University and the ASU’s theater and film departments to film dramatic excerpts for this opportunity.
- Working with Blake Middleton, co-owner of Handel Architects, the company that designed the 911 Memorial and the Emmanuel AME Church Memorial in Charleston, Robinson will help to set up a small intimate John Lewis Museum in downtown Montgomery Alabama.