34th Annual Pride Concert, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, June 22, 2012, 7 pm & 9 pm.
This Pride Concert was a historic night for the chorus and the Freedom Band, co-producers of the concert, for a variety of reasons. First, this was the first time we had performed in the beautiful concert hall at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Second, it was the first time students from Lick-Wilmerding High School had sung with us in a Pride Concert. Third, this was the world premiere of "Harvey Milk: A Cantata" which was co-commissioned by the chorus and Lick-Wilmerding.
The composer, Jack Curtis Dubowsky, and Billy Sauerland, our director, had received the full cooperation of the Estate of Harvey Milk and the Harvey Milk Archives of the Scott Smith Collection. Also Susan Goldstein, the City Archivist of San Francisco, gave Jack and Billy full access to Harvey's original papers, which yielded texts that have never been published before. It was from these texts and the words from Harvey's famous speeches that the lyrics we would be singing came from.
There were two shows of this Pride Concert, one at 7 pm and the second at 9 pm. Each show was a little bit different in the lineup of the groups that performed with us on this night. In the first show, Voices Lesbian Choral Ensemble sang Billy Joel's "She's Got a Way," Ysaye Barnwell's "We Are," and Akasa's "World Citizen." The Golden Gate Men's Chorus performed "Gryning Vid Havert (Nautical Sunrise)," David Conte's "Everyone Sang," and "It Gets Better."
Both shows began with the Freedom Band playing "Kirkpatrick Fanfare" and we joined them to sing "O Fortuna" from Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana." Also in both shows our chorus and the students from Lick-Wilmerding performed "Harvey Milk: A Cantata" which was composed of five movements. These were I. Recruit You, II. Come Out, III. Judgment, IV. Hope and V. Postlude.
For me personally singing the words of Harvey Milk was a very moving experience. I had heard Harvey make his speeches when he was running for Supervisor in 1978. I had started working in the City Attorney's office in City Hall in March of 1978 and I was working there the day Mayor George Moscone and Harvey Milk were shot by Dan White so I will always have that memory.
The Freedom Band came on and played "Dreams and Proclamations," "Celebration Tribalesque," and "The Sinfonians" in both shows and we then joined the Band to perform "Dry Your Tears, Afrika."
The two choruses who were not in the first show but sang in the second show were the Oakland-East Bay Gay Men's Chorus and they sang "Feeling Good," "Dentro Il Mio Cuor," and "I Sing Out." Also the Lollipop Guild, a small group of the SFGMC sang "All My Loving," "Somewhere" from "West Side Story," "Too Straight Polka," and ended with "Rock the Boat." Again this was another wonderful night of collaboration with all of our great performing groups and the students who brought their own energy to us and the concert. Our audiences also had a great time because we all heard immediate positive feedback in the lobby after the shows.
Next week I will be writing about "Loving Repeating" which was our fall show.
Cheers, Michael Lucero
2012, Part 3: Composing Together
Composing Together: Spring Choral and Orchestral Concert & Gala
Ehrer Theatre, Lick-Wilmerding High School, April 27, 2012
Hello faithful readers. Thank you for the feedback you have given me. First, I want to give you a bit more background about our artistic director, William Sauerland. He was also the Director of Vocal Music at Lick-Wilmerding High School. This is how the collaboration between our chorus and these high school singers came about and how we were guests of these young people on their spring concert. In preparation for this concert, our chorus and the students began rehearsing "Harvey Milk: A Cantata," a new work composed by Jack Curtis Dubowsky with words by Harvey Milk. I will be writing more about this in next week's entry.
This concert highlighted Lick-Wilmerding's various musical entities. The evening began with selections of chamber music by J. S. Bach, G. F. Handel, Karl Abel and Edward Elgar. The next part of the concert featured their chamber orchestra. Their first piece is what gave the concert its name - Composing Together: The Orchestra Project. They played a couple of songs that had their world premiere - "Malted Milk Ball Gelato" and "Waking Up." These were followed by more traditional chamber orchestra pieces by Gyorgy Ligeti and Leroy Anderson.
After intermission, the high school Vocal Ensemble sang three Beatles songs, "Can't Buy Me Love," "If I Fell," and "Eleanor Rigby" and finished with "Not While I'm Around" by Stephen Sondheim.
Next the Women's Chorus sang "Always Remember," which is a traditional Irish blessing. Next was "The Water is Wide" and they finished with "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'." Next the small women's group The Waves sang "I Got Rhythm" and "Mr. Sandman."
Next the Men's Chorus came on and sang "Set Me As a Seal" by L. Farnell. Next was an Irish folk song "Star of the County Down" with our Jason LeBrun accompanying them on flute. The men ended with "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" by Monty Python star Eric Idle.
LGCSF was next on the program and we sang "Look to the Rainbow" and "Down by the Sally Garden" with Jason accompanying us on flute. The evening ended with all singers onstage to sing a sneak peek of "Harvey Milk: A Cantata - Movement I: Recruit You." The final piece was Leonard Cohen's beautiful hymn "Hallelujah."
This concert was a real learning experience for all of us as this was the first time we had been invited by a high school music department to take part in one of their concerts. It was good for us to hear these wonderful young musicians playing and singing their music. Certainly we had a new audience in the form of all the parents and families of the students and we felt welcomed by all of them.
Next week's entry will be the 34th Annual Pride Concert 2012.
Cheers, Michael Lucero
2012, Part 2: Rainbows and Leprechauns
Rainbows and Leprechauns: A St Patty's Day Cabaret, Martuni's Piano Bar, March 19 & 20, 2012.
This cabaret was our second show of 2012 with two more to come before the chorus heads to Denver to sing at the GALA Festival. More on that to come later. We were busy the first half of 2012.
Between Love Bites and this show we only had about a month to put this together and rehearse the songs. We all, chorus and soloists, stepped up to make this a good show for our audience with guidance from Billy and Paul giving us his wonderful accompaniment. The chorus opened with "If You're Irish, Come Into the Parlor" and next was "Look to the Rainbow" with Mary Cantrell and Michael McClure soloing with the chorus backup and Jason LeBrun on flute.
We next sang "Down by the Sally Gardens" and Jason accompanied us on his flute. Next Mary was front and center as she sang about "Leprechaun Stew." The next two were Irish folk songs sung by Dale Danley and Maureen Bogues - "Muirsheen Durkin" and "Whiskey in the Jar." Following Dale and Maureen was Billy and Rachyl Underwood singing two songs - "Always Remember (An Irish Blessing)" and "Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows."
No St. Patrick's Day show would be complete without "My Wild Irish Rose" which was performed by the quartet of Fernando Ruelos, Daniel Lyons, Michael McClure and Tom McElroy. Jim Oerther followed that by singing Enya's "May It Be."
Two more Irish folk songs followed. First was "Biddy McGraw" sung by Maureen Bogues, Yolanda DeByle, Joselle Monarchi and Linda Rodriguey. After that came "Star of County Down" sung by Maureen, Yolanda, Kim Hargreaves, Joselle, Linda and Wendy Tobias with Jason on flute.
Next up was Joan Goldman singing "The Irish Ballad" by Tom Lehrer. Next were three songs from Sesame Street - first "Frogs in the Glen" sung by Wendy, "Bein' Green" sung by Jade Miller and third was "The Rainbow Connection" sung by Daniel Lyons with the chorus.
For our finale and audience sing along Mark Higgins and chorus sang "When Irish Eyes are Smiling," followed by "Over the Rainbow" and ending with "Danny Boy." I remember the green beer and Martuni's martinis flowing and everyone joining on these last three songs. Lots of fun for all of us.
Next week will be about a joint concert with musicians and singers from Lick-Wilmerding High School and the chorus which took place at the high school auditorium. Stay tuned.
Cheers, Michael Lucero
Love Bites and So Did the 80s, Mission Cultural Center, February 10 & 11, 2012.
Hello my chorus family. If you will indulge me I would like to share a bit more of our history aside from our shows. As I was trying to get to sleep a couple of nights ago I was wondering what more I can put in this history blog. We were having dinner with a friend on Lakeshore in Oakland recently and I remarked that the chorus had sung in the nearby Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church as guests of Oakland East Bay Gay Men's Chorus several times during Oakland Pride. That got me to thinking about all of the venues too numerous to name that have welcomed us to put on our concerts. We have sung in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Los Altos, Modesto, and at GALA Festivals in Seattle, Denver (3 times), San Jose, Tampa, Montreal, and Miami. I have wonderful memories of all of these. And now Love Bites.
Once again we were back at the Mission Cultural Center for our 9th annual anti-Valenine's Day cabaret. This was our way of keeping that sappy, lovey-dovey, schmaltzy Hallmark holiday in check. How do you remember the 80s? It was a decade of big hair and big shoulders, synthesizers, Sony walkmans and early CD players. For this show we had our wonderful choreographer Michael Mohammed and guest soloist, Katya Smirnoff-Skyy.
The show began with an 80s Dance Party Medley which included "Flashdance," "I Wanna Dance with Somebody," "I Love Rock n' Roll," "Total Eclipse of the Heart." "Let's Hear It For the Boy," (with new lyrics) "Material Girl," (one of our tenors Alvin Thomas rocked this one) and "Footloose." Next was "If I Had a Hammer" with lyrics deranged by Yolanda DeByle. Tom McElroy next sang "I Think We're Alone Now" followed by Scott Turco singing "Only in My Dreams." Next Janice Placido performed "Heaven is a Place on Earth" and next Katya sang Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun." Next up Daniel Lyons sang another Cyndi song "Time After Time" and this was followed by Wendy Tobias singing ABBA's "Winner Takes It All." Certainly no 80s show would be complete with an ABBA song. Next was a duet with Jade Miller and Andrew Field singing "All Out of Love." Michael Mohammed was next with Tina's "What's Love Got To Do With It?" and the chorus backed up Dale Danley singing "Love Bites" and we ended the first act with a Bon Jovi tribute singing "Livin' on a Prayer" and "You Give Love a Bad Name."
One thing I have to put in before getting to Act 2. This was when Whitney Houston had died and we had a big heart onstage with our message of love for her.
We began Act 2 with the chorus singing a medley of TV show theme songs. This was lots of fun for us. First was "Everywhere You Look" from "Full House." Some of the chorus produced a video of this song with shots of the house from Alamo Square Park. Next was "Brand New Life" from "Who's the Boss," then "As Long As We Got Each Other" from "Growing Pains." We ended the medley with "Thank You for Being a Friend" from "The Golden Girls" and this also included a video with four of us as Blanche, Rose, Dorothy and Sophia - what a hoot.
Next came a Family Feud skit with Katya Smirnoff-Skyy as hostess. We invited members of the audience to participate in this game show skit and this was lots of fun and there were prizes.
Mary Cantrell then sang "Every Breath You Take" and she rocked it and this was by Paul Michael Alves putting his take on "Sweet Dreams Are Made of This" by Eurhythmics. And then Jim Oerther performed with a striptease the song "Tainted Love" and was it ever tainted. This was followed by Howard Miller singing what we called "The Hello Medley" featuring songs with "hello" in their title. Next came Katya leading us in "True Colors" and this featured a video of pictures of our chorus angels as we remembered them and sang "you are beautiful like a rainbow."
The chorus ended the show a tribute to Michael Jackson where we sang and danced to these songs:
"Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough," "Bad," "Beat It," "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" and of course "Thriller" with Jason LeBrun as soloist. We all had a blast putting this show together through lots of hard work at rehearsals and then onstage in front of a very appreciative audience.
Next week will be all about Rainbows and Leprechauns: A St. Patty's Day Cabaret.
Cheers, Michael Lucero