Miner Raymond: the Re-director

November 8, 2014
Miner Raymond, 2009
Festival Director, 1963-1967
Photo courtesy of Miner Raymond

When Christ Church rector Ben Arnold asked Miner Raymond to take over as Boar’s Head director in 1963, both the church and the festival were at turning points. The new church building had been finished a few years earlier and was a statement of recommitment to serving the urban core. And the new nave -- with its openness, aisles and space -- called for a complete rethink of how the festival worked.

Miner, who had led Procter & Gamble brand managers through thousands of intricately planned and executed TV commercials, knew just what to do: He rented a lakeside cabin where he wouldn’t be bothered and opened a pack of 3x5 index cards.

Each card represented one festival performer. He lined them up like toy soldiers and marched them up and down different aisles and in and out different doors until he had worked out an elaborate plan.

Then he took a break. He had a little sailboat with him, and launched it. A stiff breeze came up and gave him a fine, mind-clearing sail.

The breeze also gave him a surprise when he returned to the cabin. “I had left a window open,” he said, “and those cards were scattered everywhere.” So who knows? Perhaps some part of today’s choreography came not from the mind of Miner, but on the wings of the wind.

Miner’s elaborate staging using six entrances into the church nave is still employed today.

The late Gerre Hancock, a renowned organist, was playing at Christ Church in those days. He and Miner thought a more theatrical Boar’s Head called for better music – so Miner, who did a lot of P&G business in New York City, hunted up a Julliard alum named Frank Levy to orchestrate the festival’s vocal and orchestral music to work with the new choreography.

Then one day, while they were in the church working over some of the music, a great piece of luck landed in their laps. A fellow named Maurice Mandell – who had been a New York City Opera cast member – was in the church and heard the music. Being a confirmed ham as well as a fabulous singer, he belted out a couple notes. Miner and Gerre looked at each other and knew just what to do: They convinced Maurice to take the role of Boar’s Head minstrel.

For the next 35 years, Maurice set a musical and acting standard that helped raise the festival to new heights.

And that’s just what Miner had been hoping for: more drama. He even wrote a few quiet measures of organ music to enhance the mood of the festival’s final scene.

High-quality theatrical lighting was another issue on Miner’s mind, and he worried that the church’s more proper Episcopalians might object if he used dramatic lighting to turn their place of worship into a theater. But they didn’t complain a bit. In fact, the mystery and magic created by a top-drawer lighting operation is a point of pride for the church.

P&G work forced Miner to hand off the Boar’s Head directorship after just four years, but his influence is obvious even today. That was in the cards all along.

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