Matthew O'Grady, Artistic Director December, 1983 through early 1985.
Hello my faithful readers. I thought I would do something different and write about our past artistic directors. Matt O'Grady was the AD when I joined the chorus in fall of 1984. His biography in the Lullaby of Broadway program was short and sweet, "Matt was raised in suburban Chicago in a large, artistically-inclined family. He attended Northern Illinois University, where he received a bachelor's degree in music composition and choral conducting."
I will make a confession - I was not really aware of LGCSF at that time until I first saw Matt in action leading the chorus at the 6th Annual Gay Musical Celebration held on June 22, 1984 at the Nourse Auditorium. San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus was the producer of this concert and we were one of the guests on the program. We sang "Fa Una Canzona," "To Be Sung on the Water" by Samuel Barber (which we have performed at different times over the years) and closed our set with "One" from "A Chorus Line." What I remember about our performance was the fun they were all having onstage, more so than SFGMC and their various subgroups. So when Matt announced to the audience that LGCSF was having auditions for singers in August. My partner at that time, who knew I liked to sing and had been singing in the MCC choir, said why don't you go for it and I did.
When I showed up for my first rehearsal at All Saints Episcopal Church on Waller Street in the Haight, I was greeted by the music librarian, Michael Gerding, who handed me the packet of music that we would be rehearsing for the Lullaby of Broadway concert. I was impressed by how organized everything was and the other newbies and I were introduced by Matt and I knew I had made the right decision.
Matt was a great AD and he had an easy going manner and his style of running rehearsals was pretty straightforward. I also soon learned that the chorus had a repertoire of songs which they could sing at outreach events. My first time singing with the chorus was a few weeks after I joined at the memorial service for Jon Sims, who was the founder of the Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band, SFGMC and our chorus. This was held in Grace Cathedral and all three organizations played or sang music to honor Jon. I remember one of the songs we sang was "Elijah Rock," a great spiritual that was one of the songs in the chorus repertoire. It was easy for me to learn these songs since most of the chorus knew them and helped me and the other new singers to learn them. The spirit of the chorus to include us newbies in the chorus family helped us to get over our nervousness and with Matt leading us and the section leaders lending their talent it was easy for me to feel at home.
There were 48 of us in the chorus at the time I joined and the rehearsals for Lullaby of Broadway went quickly. On November 3, 1984 we were in costume and our dancing shoes and onstage at the Victoria Theatre on 16th Street in the Mission and played to a sold out audience. In the spring of 1985 Matt stepped down as AD because he wanted to go to Ireland and find out about his family's roots. That was a sad time for the chorus and we began the task of finding a new AD.
Next week I will be writing about our next AD, Rodger Pettyjohn. And I have another historic tidbit for you all. I was looking at the program from the 4th Annual Gay Musical Celebration held in June, 1982, and counted the names of LGCSF - there were 103 of us then - and SFGMC had 117 singing in this concert. That to me is pretty amazing to think of all those singers onstage for this.
Have a great week, study your music for "Quiet No More" and let's have a great rehearsal next Thursday.
In harmony and love, Michael Lucero
2015, Part 5: Autumn Mood Swings
Autumn Mood Swings, Kelly Cullen Auditorium, November 7 & 8, 2015.
This concert was our second collaboration with the wonderful City Swing 17 piece big band under the direction of Bradley Connlain. In the program, our artistic director wrote "Thank you so much for coming to Autumn Mood Swings with the incomparable Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco! We hope this evening of big band music leaves your toes tapping and your heart singing. It has been a great pleasure to partner with City Swing, and we are grateful to Bradley Connlain and all the instrumentalists for collaborating with us!" We were also joined by guest artist Janese Powell. She is a veteran of the Bay Area Big Band scene and she also sings regularly with two big bands - the Generation Gap Big Band from Vallejo and Dave Alt's Swingtime Band from Alameda.
The evening began with City Swing providing music for dancing as our audience came in and settled at their tables. Then they played the overture "Fascinating Rhythm" by George Gershwin. The chorus joined in singing "Chattanooga Choo Choo" with John Gullotto out front. Next we sang the beautiful "Moonglow" by Eddie Delange, Will Hudson and Irving Mills.
Then Janese Powell sang "Mr. Zoot Suit" by Mark Cally and "Skylark" by Johnny Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael. The chorus was back singing "Stardust" by Mitchell Parish and Hoagy Carmichael. The soloists for this were Jae Szeszycki-Truedell and Johnny G. Next was "Tuxedo Junction" by Buddy Feyne with Wendy Tobias out front. We ended the first half with the chorus singing "Autumn Leaves" by Johnny Mercer and Geoffrey Parsons.
The second half began with more music for dancing provided by City Swing. Our audience, after a few glasses of wine, were up and dancing and swinging their partners. Then City Swing then took us south of the border with "Tico Tico" by Zequinha de Abrua. Our hips were swinging to these rhythms.
Our wonderful guest vocalist Janese Powell was back to enchant us with "Embraceable You" by George and Ira Gershwin and this was followed by her soloing on "Orange Colored Sky" with the chorus backing her. Next we sang "Moonlight Serenade" by Glenn Miller and featuring Liz Wand and Asher Butnik.
Then we sang "I Got a Gal in Kalamazoo" by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren. We finished the evening with Duke Ellington's "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" and that is exactly did with this tune and the audience was on their feet. Then City Swing provided more music for dancing as the audience danced their way home. This was truly a fun evening of music for the chorus, City Swing and our wonderful audience.
The previous September we went camping with the San Francisco Lesbian Gay Freedom Band at their band camp at a campground in Cazadero in the Russian River area. It was a fun weekend with the band as we shared meals and music and a "talent show" on Saturday night and two evenings around a campfire sharing stories and singing lots of music.
Next week I will be writing about one of our past Artistic Directors, Matt O'Grady, and sharing some of my thoughts and memories of him. I would like to continue writing about our Artistic Directors if that is something you would like to read about. Please give me your feedback. I will be writing about our 2016 season in the near future.
Cheers, Michael Lucero
37th Annual Pride Concert, Part of the Panama-Pacific Centennial Celebration, Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, June 20, 2015.
This Pride concert was a major achievement for our chorus and the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band as this was part of the year long City-wide celebration of the Centennial of the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition (PPIE). This was the Worlds Fair of 1915 and ran from February 20 through December 4. Besides the concert taking place, there was a book talk by Laura Ackley called "San Francisco's Jewel City: The Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915." There was also a world premiere screening of filmmaker R. Christian Anderson's documentary "When the World Came to San Francisco."
As the two artistic directors, William and Pete Nowlen, said in the program, "It is our honor to welcome to the historic Palace of Fine Arts for our Panama-Pacific Centennial Concert. It is with great joy we are able to contribute to the year-long, city-wide centennial events produced by the California Historical Society.
"The PPIE was celebrated with hundreds of concerts, highlighting music from a wide range of genres. Some of the greatest composers of the day - including Amy Beach, Victor Herbert, Camille Saint-Saens and John Philip Sousa - were prominent figures at the exposition."
As co-producers of this event, the Chorus and Band were joined onstage by the Bay Area Rainbow Symphony, Camerata California and students from Chabot College.
The concert began with the Band playing the "Panama Pacific March" by Harry L. Alford. Next all singers performed the "Panama Hymn" by Amy Beach. Next the Bay Area Rainbow Symphony (BARS) played the modern premiere of "A Day at the Panama Pacific Exposition" by Mayhew L. Lake. Then the singers along with BARS performed "Inscriptions" by John Karl Hirten. Mr. Hirten was in the audience and was acknowledged by us. Then the Band performed the "Panama-Pacific Expo March" by Al Pinard. The first half finished with the "Organ Symphony" by Camille Saint-Saens.
The second half began with BARS performing "Hail! California", which was also composed by Saint-Saens. Next all singers and BARS performed "Gallia" by Charles Gounod. Next the Band played "San Fran Pan American March" by Joel P. Corin which was followed by "Until We Meet Again" by Victor Herbert. Next all singers, the Band and BARS performed "1915 - San Francisco" by S. and P. I. Jacoby. The Band next played "The Pathfinder of Panama March" by John Philip Sousa and the concert and evening ended with everyone and the audience singing "San Francisco."
"San Francisco, open your golden gate, you let no stranger wait outside your door
San Francisco, here is your wanderin' one saying I'll wander no more.
Other places only make me love you best, tell me you're the heart of all the golden west
San Francisco, welcome me home again, I'm coming home to go roaming no more."
This was a long day for all of us who performed in this wonderful event but it was worth all of the work that went into this event and the audience was with us throughout the whole day.
Next time will be all about Autumn Mood Swings.
Cheers to all of you, Michael Lucero
Music from the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition and Symphony No. 4 by Walter Piston, Mill Valley and Berkeley, June 5, 6 and 7, 2015.
In this concert, LGCSF was the guest of the Mill Valley Philharmonic which was conducted by Laurie Cohen. This was a very good collaboration for us and we were able to perform before new audiences. It was exciting for me to be singing with a Philharmonic Orchestra and the musicians made us feel very welcome. The chorus had been rehearsing music for the Pride Concert and this concert was a chance to sing these pieces as sort of a dress rehearsal for Pride. The 2015 Pride Concert was part of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition Centennial Celebration. More about this next week and now to what we sang.
The concert began with the Philharmonic playing "Cumbia y Conga" by William Grant Still, who was often referred to as "the Dean" of African-American composers. He was the first African-American to conduct a major American symphony orchestra, the first to have one of his symphonies performed by a leading orchestra, the first to have an opera performed by a major opera company, and the first to have an opera of his performed on national television.
Next we sang "1915 - San Francisco, March Song" which was composed by S. and P. I. Jacoby. Then we sang "Panama Hymn" by Amy Beach who was the first successful American female composer of large-scale art music. This song was commissioned for the Panama Pacific International Exposition as the official hymn of the exposition.
Next we performed "Gallia" by Charles Gounod and was first performed at the Exposition in November, 1915. We were joined by singers from Chabot College where Billy was teaching vocal music. It was fun to sing with them as they brought their own energy to the chorus.
We ended the first part of the concert with the world premiere of John Karl Hirten's magnificent "Inscriptions." The texts for this were used as inscriptions on the Arch of the Setting Sun, Court of the Universe, at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. This was the newest piece that we performed. The music that we sang was challenging and it was interesting to note that Some of the pieces had not been performed since 1915.
The last half of the concert was the Mill Valley Philharmonic playing "Symphony No. 4" (1950) which was composed by Walter Piston and it was commissioned by the University of Minnesota for its centennial celebration and had its premiere in 1951 by the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra conducted by Antal Dorati. Again this was a great collaboration between us and the Philharmonic and the audiences were enthusiastic.
Next week will be all about Pride 2015.
Cheers and love, Michael Lucero
Guns and Roses: Songs of War n' Peace, MCCSF Polk Street, April 18 and 19, 2015.
Hello you wonderful singers. Allow me to go back to 2004 again to talk a little more about our first Love Bites show since our latest Love Bites is still on our minds. This show was the crazy and wonderful brainchild of our AD, Stephanie Lynne Smith to present an anti-Valentine's Day program and sing about the down side of love. At that time there were 52 singers in the chorus and the bass section was divided into 9 baritones and 8 basses in the program. This was presented at the Rainbow Room of the LGBT Community Center and we did two shows that February 13. We all knew that the chorus had a good thing in this show and it has continued through this past Love Bites, our 16th annual one. I guess my point in all this is what is the best way to increase our numbers to 50 and beyond? I know that we use word of mouth and social media at this point but what are your ideas on this issue? Please send any thoughts and ideas to the membership committee.
Okay, here we go with Guns and Roses. In his welcome in the program, our AD William Sauerland wrote, in part, "This concert gives us an opportunity to pause and reflect on the beauty in our lives. In a world with an ever increasing use of electronic devices, we may be forgetting to look at one another and enjoy the simple of a smile. . . . Take joy in the sublimity of our lives, be transported by the power of music, and connect with one another without the use of social media."
On this concert we were joined by the MCC Worship and Praise Team and the Vocal Ensemble of Lick-Wilmerding High School, where Billy also serves as a teacher of vocal music. The program began with us singing "Six Choral Songs to be Sung in Time of War," a song cycle by R. Vaughn Williams with text from poems by P. B. Shelley. This was a challenging piece of music for us but as we learned it in rehearsals and really listened to each other and the beauty of the music, I feel it was taken to heart by us. Next we sang a song that we had sung in the past, the beautiful "Erev Shel Shoshanim" which was sung in Hebrew. This was followed by a 13 person group of the chorus who sang "When Roses Cease to Bloom" by Christopher Enloe. In the group were Dale Danley, Kim Hargreaves, David Hathwell, Sumi Imamoto, Jason LeBrun, Van Mares, Martha Merchant, guest artist Jefferson Packer, Linda Rodriguey, Fernando Ruelos, William Sauerland, Elisa Shore and Noam Szoke.
Then the MCC Worship and Praise Team sang three songs. They were:
"I've Got Peace Like a River," "Gonna Lay Down My Burden," and "Shir LaShalom" with Elisa Shore and Wendy Tobias as soloists.
And to close out the first act the Vocal Ensemble of Lick-Wilmerding High School sang "Five Hebrew Love Songs" by Eric Whitacre. These were "Eyze Sheleg," "Kala Kalla," "Larov," Rakut," and "Temuna." They were accompanied by guest violinist Mike Jones.
We began the second half by singing a medley from the movie soundtrack of "Schindler's List" with Mike Jones on violin. Next we sang "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" by Pete Seeger with Mike Jones on violin and Jason LeBrun on flute.
Next was a trio of songs with the word rose in the titles or written by Axl Rose. The first was "The Rose" by Amanda McBroom from Bette Midler's film of the same name. This was sung by a quintet of our women, Yolanda DeByle, Martha Merchant, Ellen Miller, Elisa Shore and Johnna Walker.
Then came "The Days of Wine and Roses" by Henry Mancini from the film of the same name. This was performed by an octet composed of Dale, Sumi, Jason, Jefferson, Linda, William, Noam and Wendy.
This was followed by the most rocking song in the program "Sweet Child O' Mine" by Axl Rose of the group Guns and Roses.
Then we sang the beautiful acappella song by U2 called "M.L.K." which is a tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I remember as we were rehearsing this song how all of us in one way or another were touched by these words and the memory of Dr. King.
The concert came to a wonderful and uplifting close with all of the singers joining to sing John Lennon's "Imagine." "Imagine all the people living life in peace, and all the world will be as one." I feel our audiences left this concert with a smile on their faces and a little hope in their hearts.
Next week will be about our collaboration with the Mill Valley Philharmonic in three concerts that we performed with them in June.
Cheers and peace, Michael Lucero
Several LGCSF members recently attended the annual GALA Leadership Symposium, held this year in Tucson, Arizona. Here reflecting on their experiences there are long-time bass section members Michael Lucero, chorus historian, and Dale Danley, treasurer.
Where do I begin with this? It was a totally wonderful experience for me. One aspect was having the chance to meet my peers one on one from many other choruses. At the first social event I talked with five artistic directors about what we all had done most recently. Also my experience singing with the Symposium Singers under the direction of Michael Hayden was amazing. There were about 120 of us from different choruses and through four and half hours of rehearsal over two days we learned three pieces - one in Latin - which we sang at the final lunch on Sunday. The music that was sung by the four Arizona choruses was beautiful. I learned a lot at the five workshops that I attended, especially the one for GALA Festival liaisons and one called A New Harmony, Equity, Access, Belonging which came with a workbook for choruses to use and which I will be sharing with the chorus.
Cheers, Michael Lucero
As a huge fan of the GALA Festival, I approached the GALA Symposium with some excitement and a bit of awe. I thought I would get a chance to see some amazing leaders showing off the inner workings of the GALA Choruses community. And that did happen during the three days of the Symposium in Tucson. I also workshopped with people from across the country facing challenges that seemed similar to those we have at LGCSF. I picked up excellent tips for raising more money from our top donors.
While meeting with us to discuss LGCSF's overall fundraising & communication strategy, a consultant for GALA told Michael, Robert and me that we need to "get to know what people's dreams are." That resonated with me.
The trip was also a chance to show my husband the city and state where I grew up! It was way overdue.