REVIEW: ‘The Dream of America’ tugs at the heartstrings

Photo courtesy of Peter Boyer

Photo courtesy of Peter Boyer

“Ellis Island: The Dream of America” was originally composed by Peter Boyer and was conducted by Mark Laycock. The prologue orchestral piece was conducted by Clem Pearson, a graduate student conductor.

When the piece started, it was clear that Mark Laycock held a clear passion for the project and his conducting. Throughout the performance he refused to stay stationary, swinging his arms and almost hopping off the platform in time with the music.

When I first walked in, I noticed a screen drop down as well as two stools with microphones near them.

Later it was revealed that the screen would be used for pictures timed to the music while showcasing pictures of Ellis Island arrivals.

The two stools would be used for Cristina Castaldi and Michael Sylvester. Castaldi and Sylvester would narrate with time to the music, telling the first person stories of people who arrived on Ellis Island.

The stories were alternated between the two speakers, until the very end when they would read aloud the Emma Lazarus poem inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”

It’s hard to boil this performance down to one word, but if I had to, it would be incredible. It was an emotionally riveting experience, one that I’ll be thinking about for a while.