ONE

 

The seminal idea for ONE was planted when I was age 16 on  Martha’s Vineyard in the Abel’s Hill, Chilmark living room of Broadway  legend E.Y. Harburg, famed lyricist of “Over the Rainbow.”  

I asked “Yip” what was the greatest song ever written. Without hesitation  he began to sing the slave spiritual “Sing Low, Sweet Chariot.” Yip then  encouraged me to “take on the subject of slavery” and to use the rich  legacy of Negro spirituals as inspiration for my original music. Yip was an  atheist and used his enormous talents as a ‘social justice’ voice on  Broadway, in songs like “Brother Can You Spare A Dime,” “The Eagle  and Me,” etc. 

Years later a fortuitous grant offered the opportunity to use Yips’s  inspiring artistic challenge. At this juncture, I won a nationally  competitive and highly coveted Meet The Composer Residency Award  (MTCRA) which directly and fully funds a composer $40K per year for  three years to write music of his or her choice. The only caveat: the  award requires the partnership of a coalition of major organizations in the 

residing city to over see the management of the project and pay for all  the performances. 

This MTCRA funding, supported me to work with a totally rare and  extraordinary team of Boston area organizations that otherwise may  have never ever gathered as a “team”: 

  1. Two major Boston Jewish organizations: The New England Anti Defamation League (ADL) and The Jewish Community Relations  Council of Great Boston  
  2. The Ten Point Coalition (a group of Boston Black urban churches )  3. The Springfield Symphony Orchestra 
  3. The Leventhal-Sidman Jewish Community Center in Newton, MA 5. Somerville Community Action Committee 
  4. Concord Baptist Church, South End Boston, a historically Black  church noted for its arts programing and venerable Black history.

This rare organization team, bonded my my music, —-after I put in three  consecutive years of writing, composition, and workshops,—- produced a  two-hour narrated performance piece entitled, MOSES, The Gospel  Opera with a cast of 200. This work premiered at Boston’s downtown  Cutler Majestic Theater to full houses of almost equal numbers of urban  Blacks and Jews, with Rabbis narrating in Hebrew and Black ministers  narrating in English. Cast included: a 70-voice children’s choir comprised  of urban underserved Black Christian children and mainly suburban  Jewish children; hip hop dancers; modern jazz dancers; a classical choir,  and a gospel choir. MOSES, The Gospel Opera was tremendously  supported by top tier new England funders including but limited to:  Robert and the late Myra Kraft, Paul Fireman, Founder and Ex-CEO and  Founder of Reebok, Steve and Barbara Grossman, Joel Culter and  David Fialkow, who gifted $230K for the premiere, Sid Topol, Seth and  Beth Klarman, and Ken And Gerri Sweder. Combined Jewish  Philanthropies of Boston played a key facilitating role.

The Fialkows brought David Mamet to the premiere. David was so  impressed he wrote me a hand-written letter from Cabot,VT saying  MOSES, The Gospel Opera was “an extraordinary event” which should  be “repeated all over the country.” 

Following the Boston Premiere I received an unsolicited call from  Stephen Spielberg’s foundation asking me how could they help further  the work. I told them a cast of 200 was unwieldily and would they  support the transformation of MOSES, The Gospel Opera into a 25 cast  traditional musical theater dance format. That lead to two grants from  Speilberg’s Righteous Persons Foundation and one from The Marilyn  and Jeffery Katzenberg Foundation. Both unsolicited awards were  matched by the Black Boston mega-church Jubilee Christian Church with  a grant of $100K and another gift from a Black millionaire patron, the late  Ross Love, in Cincinnati of another $100k. The new generation work was entitled ONE.

The Spielberg/Katzenberg Foundation money with matching funds  enabled me to do three things over four years:  

#1. Collaborate l in creating a new libretto or book with a top Broadway  director, Keith Batten, who directs all the international shows of Aida and  Beauty and the Beast for Disney Theatrica. Keith was also assistant  director to Julie Taymor on Spiderman. Keith mentored the writing of the  new book over a two-year period but holds no writing credits.  

#2. Stage workshop performances with sold out audiences in: Chicago  at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie, IL; at the  JCC in Manhattan; The Martha’s Vineyard Performing Arts Center; in  Cincinnati at the Performing Arts Center; and at lastly at The Alvin Ailey’s  Weill Theater in NYC.  

#3. And for all the above developmental workshops I had the creative  team and cast of eight Alvin Ailey first company dancers, including  Mathew Rushing, Ailey’s lighting designer, Al Crawford; Ailey’s stage  manager, Alaric Hahn, and two top Ailey choreographers, Hope Boykin 

and Ray Mercer (who is the longest performing artist in the Lion King).  Kelly Peters (a pioneer of hip hop dance on Martha’s Vineyard) was part  of the New York City performances as a hip hop choreographer, 

Inserted in this timeline was a special performance of a 30-minute  excerpt from at the International General Assembly of Jewish  Federations in Chicago, which was funded by the late Myra Kraft. Myra  flew a cast of eight from Boston to Chicago, including a top Boston hip hop crew and two first company Ailey dancers from New York City. Myra  also flew in an Ethiopian orphan children’s choir from Israel, called Yemin  Orde, to perform at this event in Chicago singing my original songs with  a Black urban Chicago Children’s Choir, The Soul Children

ONE was further influenced by life-changing two week tour of Israel. I  traveled to Haifa, Jerusalem, Masada, and Tel Aviv. In Jerusalem at the  Western Wall I realized how the Western Wall and the US urban city  walls with graffiti had a similar roles, which I could use dramatically via special effects in ONE. Both Walls hold enormous hope for positive 

change for the people that engaged them. The Jerusalem Wall via  prayers and dreams answered to requests put in the cracks of limestone  and the myriad urban walls which provide outlets for artists’ emotional  hopes and expressions in graffiti art. Both walls connect people across  race, nationality, and social economic level world wide, as hip hop graffiti  art is international. At a visit to the Judaic Jerusalem Orthodox middle  school a new take on the 4,500-year-old theme of exodus from slavery  evolved. When I congratulated the head Rabbi principal on sustaining  Jewish traditions thousands of years old, he sadly replied by saying: “Our  biggest problem is students accessing porn on the internet. It’s an  addiction of enormous challenge.” I realized another type of slavery had  even invaded this secluded protected space and that I would spotlight  that modern slavery in my work. 

At this juncture I met my present Philippine wife resided in that country a  decade and I started a family. We lived at 7000 feet above sea level in  the remote mountains of the Northern area of the country and enjoyed  an idldllic life there, growing our own organic foods, and pretty much  living off the grid.

 

Simultaneously, I completed major development steps on ONE the  with the top English speaking professional theater in Manila,  Repertory Philippines and an internationally famous hip hop crew, The  Philippine Allstars. I connected with Manila’s top actor/director Miguel  Faustman, who guided ONE through two major workshops and  a preview at the USA Embassy Residence for leaders in the  Manila community. 

When I returned to America last year, I realized ironically, the world  faced similarly daunting challenges as Yip faced in the 1940’s: epidemic  levels of anti-semitism, Black racism, white supremacists, international  dictatorships that threatened with world war, and the degradation of  women and children. In addition, one other sad reality: slavery—both  internal via addictions (as at the Jerusalem middle school) and external  physical enslavements in trafficking—- still exist 4,500 years after The  Exodus, at levels never before seen in World History.

I now look forward to securing the largest possible audience to enjoy ONE, a work which is immensely entertaining and commercial with  electrifying hip hop dance and innovative dialogue all in verse, which  simultaneously provides hope for our urgent world challenges.  

Oskar Eustis who launched Hamilton read ONE. Oskar re-affirmed in  an email I am on a path which Yip Harberg would be proud of… 

“I was delighted to encounter your voice again.  

 MB’s story is harrowing and moving, and the music is just fantastic.  The struggles and vulnerabilities shine  

through the polished momentum of your writing.  

 Very well done, my friend.”  

I look forward to ONE bringing abundant financial returns to all our  investors. And in the process building a safer, saner, liberated world of  compassion, especially in the treatment of women world-wide.