Greetings and happy May to all of my faithful readers. I hope you are all staying well both physically and mentally. I find that what keeps me going is to listen to all the music on my iTunes playlist which is over 12,000 songs, especially music of our chorus and other choruses which always inspire me.
As I said last week that I would be writing more about what the chorus did in 1986 under the musical direction of Rodger Pettyjohn. As I mentioned in a previous entry, Rodger stepped down from directing the chorus due to his health since he had AIDS. After working with us in the latter part of 1985 we embarked on learning the music we would sing in our spring concert "This is Our Country!" held on March 5 and 8. Proceeds from this concert were given to the Statue of Liberty Fund and our name was inscribed on a plaque as the first Lesbian/Gay group to have contributed to this fund.
I have a review of this concert entitled "Warm Praise" by Bernard Spunberg where he welcomed and congratulated the chorus under the leadership of Musical Director Rodger Pettyjohn. He wrote "From the opening notes of a medley from 'West Side Story', Pettyjohn and his ensemble revealed a great, big, beautiful sound." "'Maria', sung as a lesbian love song, was sung with inspiring expressivity." There was a new quartet from the chorus, the Muni Transfer, which later in the year become Menage an octet which became the ambassador for the chorus for many years appearing at many small events to spread the word and work of the chorus. We put out a press release after the concert announcing that auditions for all voice parts would be held on March 22. At this point rehearsals were being held at All Saints Episcopal Church on Waller Street.
Our next performance was in the Gay Pride Concert in June in which we sang selections from "Oliver" and received a standing ovation which was the first time for that in many years. Rodger was so excited by this he wanted to sing "I Sing the Body Electric" as an encore. But we had not rehearsed it although most of us had sung it in the past. We got through the first part, mostly forgot the second part but we kept smiling and remembered the final part which we finished strongly. The audience loved our chutzpah and the fact that we stayed with it. Just another moment in the life of the chorus where we all picked each other up to deliver our music.
The chorus received its first Cable Car Award for the Gay Games II Inaugural Concert on August 1 and 5 in which we sang music by gay and lesbian composers. Also on that concert were musicians of the Society of Gay and Lesbian Composers which Rodger was one of the founding members. This was a truly memorable concert for me as we were with all these talented musicians and singing to a new audience, the athletes from the Gay Games plus our regular audience. I found in the archives a letter from the Golden Gate Business Association which notified us that they would be giving us a grant in the amount of $1,300 to provide advance production support for this concert.
We also sang in the "Now Sing with Hearts Aglow" concert with SFGMC in December. We also did caroling in various locations throughout this month. Pat Parr, who would become our next Artistic Director, heard us in this concert and was so impressed with us that in 1987 he applied for the position of AD and was hired after we voted him in.
This was a busy year for the chorus. We began with an out of town retreat at the Wildwood Ranch in Guerneville in January, a cocktail party, garage sale and a bake/ticket sale at Castro and Market in February. We had the technical rehearsal for "This is Our Country!" on February 28, a fundraiser at the "N Touch" cabaret on March 2, dress rehearsal on March 4 and the concerts on March 5 and 8. Regular rehearsals began again on March 26. On May 18 members of the chorus sang at a Gay and Lesbian Outreach for the Elderly dinner. June 4 was the date for our "Oliver" music to be memorized for the Pride Concert and June 27 for the concert and June 29 we were in the Pride Parade. July 25-27 we were on retreat at Bishop's Ranch to work on the music for the Gay Games II concert and to bond and have fun and get to know each other and come together as a community. There was a "talent show" on Saturday night - so much talent you wouldn't believe. We had a technical rehearsal and dress rehearsal after we got back from the retreat and then the two concerts on August 1 and 5. We also sang in the Closing Ceremonies of the Gay Games on August 17.
Rehearsals began on September 17, we staffed a booth at the Folsom Street Fair on the 21st and staffed a booth at the Castro Street Fair on October 5. We performed at an event at the Green Room in the Veterans Building on Oct. 10 and at 22 on the Red event the following evening. Next we sang at Big Mama's in Hayward. On December 14, we sang at the beer bust at the SF Eagle and finished with the holiday concert with SFGMC. Rodger was one who liked having a seating chart for the chorus at rehearsals and we sat in a mixed voice seating which meant you really had to know your music which was always memorized for our concerts.
Next week I will be writing more about 1987 and our first year with Pat Parr so stay tuned.
In harmony and health and love, Michael Lucero