"Tired of Silence": Andrew Lippa's Track-By-Track Journey Through His Oratorio I Am Harvey Milk

By Playbill Staff
29 Jun 2014

Andrew Lippa
Andrew Lippa

As part of Playbill's 30 Days of Pride, Tony Award-nominated composer-lyricist Andrew Lippa takes readers on an exclusive track-by-track journey through the people, places and historic moments that inspired his oratorio I Am Harvey Milk, which tells the story of the late gay rights pioneer through song. The work will have its New York premiere this fall.

I Am Harvey Milk premiered June 26, 2013, with San Francisco's Gay Men's Chorus under the direction of Noah Himmelstein. The date of the premiere coincided with the Supreme Court's decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, which blocked federal recognition of same-sex marriage in the U.S. The oratorio, which culminates in a video montage of social history and progress, concluded with a last-minute visual of the groundbreaking news that DOMA had been found unconstitutional.

Lippa (Big Fish, The Wild Party, The Addams Family, jon & jen) penned original music and lyrics for the piece that utilizes some of Milk's actual words for the text. The San Francisco premiere was recorded and is now available for download via iTunes.

In I Am Harvey Milk, the composer-lyricist portrays the first openly-gay man to hold public office in California, along with Tony Award winner Laura Benanti (Gypsy, Women on the Verge) as the soprano soloist. They are joined by the 300-member SFGMC. Dr. Timothy Seelig conducts the oratorio that has orchestrations by August Erksmoen and accompaniment by the Bay Area Rainbow Symphony.



The piece will have its New York premiere Oct. 6 at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall. Tony winner Kristin Chenoweth will star alongside the Tony-nominated composer. It will premiere in L.A. July 19 with Lippa performing alongside soprano Alexandra Silber. Himmelstein will direct both upcoming productions.

Big Fish producer Bruce Cohen, Robb Nanus and Jessica Leventhal produced the work.  

Below, Lippa gives readers a look at the inspirations that shaped I Am Harvey Milk, alongside audio tracks from the cast album of each of the 12 movements in the oratorio. Click through to begin.

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