On a moonlit May evening in 1967 after his concert at Sidwell Friends School Wayne offered Dave Brubeck a ride back to his hotel. On the way he asked if Dave might like to see where he worked and they wound up jamming on the Great Organ until well after midnight. Brubeck had begun writing Christian sacred choral music and Wayne conducted three performances of his oratorios The Light in the Wilderness in 1969 & 1976 and The Gates of Justice in 1971.
Dirksen understood that the Cathedral itself could be a powerful inspiration to the creative soul. Often, all he had to do was introduce the artist to the building and get out of the way. Never was this more apparent than with dancer and choreographer José Limon. Reaching the Great Crossing, Limon was powerfully stirred and suddenly sprang up onto of the four great central piers that support the Gloria in Excelsis Tower. Wayne swore that he saw that pillar move in response; Limon did two residencies and performances in the Crossing in 1965 and 1968.
Paul Callaway’s many personal connections with contemporary composers prompted commissioned works and DC premieres by Dominick Argento, Ronald Arnatt, Benjamin Britten, Ernest Bloch, Samuel Barber, Lili Boulanger, John Corigliano, Frederick Delius, Paul Hindemith, Lee Hoiby, Arthur Honneger, Daniel Pinkham, William Walton, and of course Leo Sowerby, who capped his own legendary career as the unofficial Dean of American Church Music with his leadership of the College of Church Musicians. Another memorable series of operas were written for the Cathedral by John LaMontaine: Novellis, Novellis (1961), The Shephardes Playe (1967) and Erode the Greate (1969).
Two of the 20th Century’s most prominent composers had long and close connections with the Cathedral. Wayne (along with sons Rick and Mark) performed in Leonard Bernstein’s Mass at the opening of the Kennedy Center in 1971. Not only did this make an indelible impression on Wayne (see his personal letter to Bernstein about his experience) and on his compositions (the 1972 Service for Light shows clear influences!) the Cathedral invited Bernstein and the National Symphony to perform and record Haydn’s Mass in Time of War on the Eve of the 1972 Inauguration of Richard Nixon. That event drew approximately 12,000 people (the Cathedral only seated 2,400 at that time) and was broadcast outside.
And Gian-Carlo Menotti’s music was never far from Wayne’s mind and heart. Paul Callaway had been asked to conduct the World Premiere of Menotti’s Unicorn, Gorgon and Manticore at the Library of Congress in 1956, and Wayne in turn copied out the instrumental parts for the ingenious small orchestra. He then produced and directed two performances of Menotti’s “madrigal fable” at the Cathedral in 1965 and 1976. For these he wrote a set of three virtuosic fanfares for solo trumpet, followed by a haunting processional Sarabande.
This all led up to the commissioning of The Egg, an unusual opera which was staged as part of Festival ’76 along with the American premiere of Martin’s Lie which featured boy soprano Simon Jackson in the title role.