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A Magical Marriage Of Music And History: 'I Dream' Rocks

While it may be true that many of us learned of the trials, tribulations and victories of the Civil Rights Movement from books or movies, what better to make history come alive than with music?
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I Dream is a rhythm and blues opera based on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Written and composed by Douglas Tappin, the music and lyrics of I Dream generates a symphony of emotions in response to the brilliantly compelling, musical interpretation of this pivotal segment of American history -- inspiration, motivation, peace, serenity, sadness, loss, joy, righteous indignation, and love all have their way with the listener.

Long known for its healing powers, music is a powerful means of evoking emotions and any experience that is marked by strong emotions is etched more deeply in our memories. Intrinsically, both opera and R&B are musical genres that lend themselves to emotional storytelling.

While it may be true that many of us learned of the trials, tribulations and victories of the Civil Rights Movement from books or movies, what better to make history come alive than with music?

Currently for sale on iTunes and Google Play Music, the 27 song soundtrack entitled, I Dream (the Concept Recording), is a full studio recording reminiscent of the 1970, "Jesus Christ Superstar" rock opera concept album, which served as a catalyst for the Broadway and London productions, film and worldwide tours.

Interview Segment with Douglas Tappin

AY: What made you choose music as a means of telling this story?

DT: The whole thing happened organically. I did not set out to write this. I found myself in Atlanta reading accounts of the movement and talking to many individuals who had been a part of it. The experience was so visceral, so profound that I felt, literally, compelled to tell the story.

I think it is one of the greatest stories in human history. But to portray 30 years of history in a two-hour period is quite an undertaking and I needed all my resources as a musical-dramatic writer to set it as a rhythm and blues opera. I am using that term partly because that is what I set out to do and also because I appreciate the need to label something, to define it, even though it is really just seamless story-telling, using music and drama combined.

AY: Please share your creative thought process that inspired this history based production.

DT: At the core of it, I saw this plight that is one of injustice. A song, "Will It Always Be This Way?" summarizes that plight. The plight of the poor, the needy, the orphaned, the oppressed, the downtrodden, the stranger, the captive, the hated one, the persecuted one. But in the face of that plight -- and this is the most remarkable thing to me about the story -- is the way people chose to confront it was by using love, which is astonishing.

And love that was not just a theoretical concept. It was love that was walked out in a strong, practical way, and that is utterly amazing! It was amazing then and the more I read about it, even now, that people could choose to not retaliate, and to commit themselves to the way of non-violence -- to do and stand for the right thing, to face up to injustice even at great risk and to ultimately win, victory by love.

"And 'victory by love' is a theme formed, articulated and challenged in I Dream, -within the hearts of humanity, within the [Civil Rights] movement itself, and vigorously by those intent on resisting change."

First presented as a musical theatrical production, the Atlanta Premiere of I Dream on the Alliance Stage was directed by actress, Jasmine Guy, with a cast featuring: Quentin Darrington (Broadway's "Ragtime," Memphis National Tour, and current Broadway revival of "Cats"); Demetria McKinney (Tyler Perry's "House of Payne" and "Real Housewives of Atlanta"); recording artist Avery Sunshine; and Grammy award winner Bob Carlisle.

Performing the vocals on I Dream (the Concept Recording) are: Quentin Earl Darrington as Martin; Avery Sunshine as Coretta; Keith Williams as Ralph; Desmond Ellington as Hosea; Andrea Connor as Grandma; Jason Fowler as Levison. The Ensemble includes: Latrice Pace (Gospel Artist) and D.Woods (formerly Danity Kane), Arietha Lockhart, Sara Von Davenport, Alexis Hollins, Caitlyn Martin, Clark King, Eric Moore, Tim Stylez, Benjamin Moore, Eugene Russell IV, Bruce Meadows, Matthew Tally, Bill Killmeier.

Other contributors include: Carl Marsh (Orchestration, Hammond B-3), Keith Williams (piano), Nate Robinson (drums), Brandon Gilliard (bass), and Dan Baraszu (guitar).

Follow I Dream on Twitter. Like I Dream on Facebook.

Tappin is currently writing and composing, "Becoming Othello," based on Paul Robeson's year playing Othello at London's Savoy Theatre, in 1930. Tappin has also written and composed six other significant musical-dramatic works including: "King" (based on the intersection of the lives of King Saul and King David) and "Deliverer" (based on the story of Moses and the Israelites) which has been independently produced in London and in the U.S.