On Saturday night, the Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra (KCO) celebrates one of New York City’s best known 20th Century architects, Robert Moses. The orchestra’s season's opener is free, open to the public and will be held at the World Financial Center’s Winter Garden at 7 P.M.
The main event of Saturday night's show will be the world premiere of "Robert Moses Astride New York," composed by KCO conductor Gary S. Fagin and featuring Obie Award-winning tenor vocalist Rinde Eckert.
“There’s something about Robert Moses and his life and what he means to New York City,” Fagin says. “His story is almost mythological in scope and certainly operatic in scope. It’s a wonderful story and I think it’s a perfect kind of story that can be portrayed by music, which hopefully portrays the inner-man and his conflicts as well as to how people respond to him.”
Fagin adds although the piece is still a work in progress, Saturday evening will feature a sampling of Fagin’s score and libretto, and will address three specific events from Moses’ controversial career in three movements. No dance numbers will be incorporated in this program and Eckert will sing through each movement as an opera.
The first is set at a speech Moses delivered to 500 of the city’s top civic members in 1930. The master builder's bravado impressed the panel with his vision for the future of New York City. Moses reportedly outlined initiatives for parks, roadways, bridges and infrastructure. He also noted that his plan would create jobs for a city reeling in the largest economic depression of the century.
The second movement addresses the infamous “Battle of Central Park” of 1956. Moses proposed expanding a parking lot over an existing playground for the park’s Tavern On The Green restaurant. But the suggestion was a controversial one, and resulted in protests from Upper West Side mothers.
In Fagin's composition, the final Moses act takes the audience to Flushing Meadows, Queens, the park Moses built that staged two worlds' fairs. In 1970, a simple and modest bench was dedicated to Moses in the park. “Someday let us sit on this bench, and reflect on the gratitude of man," Moses muses, telling the audience who that man is, "a giant, a genius. Moses. He built it all. He built New York."
Fagin adapted the work from Robert Caro’s 1974 Pulitzer Prize winning biography “The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York.” The orchestra was founded in 2008 under Fagin's direction to bring classical music and its teachings to Lower Manhattan.
Since this year will mark the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Fagin plans to present Saturday night's program with American music proudly on display. “We want to begin the commemoration year not necessarily in solemnity, but in celebration of the indomitable spirit of Americans and New Yorkers in particular,” says Fagin. “And we’re doing that by playing a number of wonderful pieces of American music with lots of energy and lots of good will.”
In addition to Fagin's Moses composition, Saturday night will feature performances of works by Euday L. Bowman, Scott Joplin, Charles Ives, and Aaron Copland. The Brooklyn Youth Chorus will also flip a few pages through the American songbook to sing the music of Bob Dylan, Leonard Bernstein, and James Taylor.