The pageant, “The Romance of a People”, will mark a new departure in the technique of dramatic presentations, when it will be staged at the Polo Grounds on September 14 to raise funds for the settlement of German Jews in Palestine.
The stage, one of the largest to be erected in America, was designed by Peter Clark, creator of the Radio City stages, and Julian Clarence Levi, former president of the Architectural League. It stretches three hundred feet across the Polo Grounds field. There is to be a gigantic reproduction of the Temple of Solomon in ancient Jerusalem against the background of the old city.
For the first time in the history of the American stage, the facilities of radio will be the keystone on which a dramatic spectacle is built. Special devices are being created by the Western Electric Company in order that every person will be able to hear the voices of the speakers and the music with the same clarity as those at the front of the stage.
Underneath the stage there is being built a special amplification room which will house a chorus which bears the brunt of the musical part of the pageant. This amplification room will also contain the orchestra and the soloists. As in radio, the real stars of the production will not be seen by the audience. They will speak and sing through the microphone. Provision is being made by Mr. Clark and Mr. Levi to allow for the vibration of the thousands of people who march back and forth across the stage over the amplification room.
The music to be used in the pageant has been taken from sources whose origin is as ancient as that of the Hebrew race. The product of years of collection by Dr. A. D. Idelsohn, professor of Jewish music at the Hebrew Union College, is incorporated in a majority of the chants. All of the music to be used, however, has been specially arranged by Isaac Van Grove, director of the late Chicago Civic Opera, who is in charge of the production. Throughout the score, use is also made of Yemenite, Persian and Spanish Jewish melodies. The music to the dance of Miriam is of a desert type and may even be heard today among the dervishes of the Sudan. One of the compositions created by Mr. Van Grove is the Bacchanale, which accompanies the scene in which the virgin is sacrificed to the god, Moloch, in accordance with the ancient rites. It is written in the primitive manner and is typical of the homophonic melodies which have come down from ancient times.
The outstanding composition in the pageant, of later origin, is the “Dudele,” a Chassidic melody symbolizing the joy in humility of this middle nineteenth century Jewish sect. Overwhelmed by the persecutions which surrounded them in the Polish and Russian countries, these Jews adopted a mystical outlook that enabled them to endure their wretchedness. The Chassidic dance, which accompanies the music, is the only dance created out of humility.
Jacob Ben-Ami, noted actor-director, is associated with Mr. Van Grove as dramatic director of the 6,200 actors, dancers and singers who are to take part in the performance. Meyer W. Weisgal is executive director of the production.
Among the Christian leaders who have offered their cooperation are former Governor Alfred E. Smith, Charles H. Tuttle, Owen D. Young, Edward J. Flynn, Surrogate James A. Foley, Samuel Seabury, Michael Williams, Ferdinand Pecora, Norman Thomas, John F. Curry, Senator Royal F. Copeland, and Attorney General John J. Bennett, Jr.
Governor Herbert H. Lehman and Samuel Untermyer are honorary chairmen of the committee which is sponsoring the production.