The film begins with an incredibly creative light show to the tune of "The Dream Of Love" title song, when out of an auburn mist emerges a slender black singer, a graceful, mystical figure of a man named Misto, who beckons the audience to follow him into a fantastic journey, which the film does become.
The scene then opens on to a warm summer night in a gentle small town in southern Illinois (Fairgrove), just outside of Springfield. The band softly plays impromptu on the steps of the veranda.
The first half of the film follows the background and evolution of The Visionaries, primarily the male lead singer Clay and his partner Mary Jean, as well as Clay's family. We learn that they have strongly rooted American values and humanitarian instincts, mixed with a distinguished history of compassionate cultural pluralism. The patriarchal grandfather (Frederick Benjamin Ryley, now in his nineties), a proud gentleman of noble Scottish/Irish and kindly German descent, had earned a Purple Heart at the Battle of the Bulge in WWII, and then became a world renowned professor and author at the University of Chicago.
It was he who founded the Foreign Exchange Society, an organization that encouraged and sometimes arranged funding for international communications, exchanges, and collaborations on a variety of projects. He helped to write the 1947 charter for the United Nations under Truman. Indeed, his father (Clay's great-grandfather) had a similar history. He had previously fought in the trenches of the Western Front, and then worked for the State Department, helping to write the original 1918 charter for the League of Nations during the Woodrow Wilson administration.
Clay's father (Jim Ryley) had come back to Fairgrove an itinerant preacher of the gospel, after graduating from Yale and a short stint as a Marine in Vietnam. He had been voted the undergraduate Poet Laureate at Yale, and had shunned the idea of a career in politics, despite the gentle urgings of his Dad. A handsome, humorous, and instantly likeable sort, he is now selling cars for a local Toyota dealer in order to finance his six kids through schools.