Greetings to all my faithful readers. I hope you are all well and safe and staying healthy as we all go through these trying times. Please stay positive and listen to as much music as you can. That is what I do every day.
I thought I would write a bit more about what the chorus went through in 1985. As I have been reading through the archives from 1985, our Artistic Director, Matt O'Grady, and our accompanist, Jim Murdoch, moved on to pursue other professional concerns. A member of the chorus who was also an arranger, Beth Sanders, stepped up to be our interim director. Our rehearsal space was in Russell Kassman's piano store.
I read through the first few Leadsheets of 1985 and the chorus kept on with rehearsals. January 18 was the production meeting for the spring concert. January 27 was the date for our 5th birthday party. There was an Open Forum meeting on January 30 and a steering committee meeting set for February 3. The chorus was nominated for a Cable Car Award for Outstanding Concert for our Lullaby of Broadway concert from November, 1984. One of the others we were up against was Sylvester at the Castro Theatre show. The Cable Car Awards was held on February 2 at the Japan Center Theatre. Unfortunately we did not win this year. There was a thank you party on February 23 for Jim Murdoch as we wished him well on his new endeavors. To be admitted to the party you must come wearing a crazy hat with the best hat winning a door prize. As always we were recruiting new members in all voice parts. So you see the chorus was busy during the early part of 1985.
For the Lesbian/Gay Freedom Day Parade we put out a flyer inviting current and past members of the chorus to a Family Reunion to "Honor Our Past and Secure Our Future" and to celebrate 5 years of "Together in Harmony" and to sing, dance and be wild in the streets. We had a float with music from our past 5 years of concerts playing as we sang and danced our way up Market Street. We also sang in the 7th Annual Gay Musical Celebration which was held on June 28 and 29 at Mission High School. We performed on June 29 as we sang "Stand Up and Be Counted" which was composed and arranged by Beth Sanders, followed by "Amazing Grace" arranged by a friend of the chorus David Stratton. Next was "Song of the Soul" composed by Cris Wiliamson and arranged by Beth and we closed with ""Rhythm of Life." Please look at the attachments regarding this concert.
Of course there was an ongoing search for a permanent Artistic Director and in August Rodger Pettyjohn was hired and we started rehearsals with him for our new season on September 25. We sent out press releases to the San Francisco gay papers as well as one to GALA Choruses. He spent October through December building us up and we sang on street corners - during Christmas season in front of Macy's, in Union Square and on Castro Street. Here is some of the repertoire we learned during fall 1985 through spring 1986. "Bouree" by Bach, "Fa Una Canzona," "The Greatest Love of All," "I Sing the Body Electric," "The Rhythm of Life," and "Simple Gifts" by Copland.
For our Holiday repertoire it was "Break Forth, O Beauteous, Heavenly Light" by Bach, "Carol of the Bells," Caroling, Caroling," "Deck the Halls," "In Dulci Jubilo," "Let It Snow," and "The Christmas Song" by Mel Torme.
For our Spring concert there was "A Chorus Line medley," "Elijah Rock," "Frostiana" by Randall Thompson, "Shenandoah," "Simon and Garfunkel medley," "There is a Balm in Gilead," and a "West Side Story medley and for Gay Pride "Reincarnations No. 3" by Samuel Barber. The chorus had its work set out by Rodger and we all learned it together in harmony. In the Leadsheet from December 4 Rodger wrote about attendance saying from this date until March 5, 1986 only two excused absences from rehearsal are allowed. Further, more than 2 excused absences or any unexcused absences may result in suspension from the chorus at the discretion of the music director. As you see Rodger really stressed the importance of being at rehearsals to learn the music and as well to bond with each other to become a harmonious unit. What I remember during this time is that we all learned the music and we had fun and were determined to be our best as we were on this new journey with Rodger.
Next week I will dig further into the chorus in 1986 and our musical journey from that year. Take care of yourselves, wash your hands and stay safe and sing every day.
Always in harmony, Michael Lucero
Greetings to all of my faithful readers. I hope you are all well and washing your hands and staying home as much as possible. I thought I would continue a bit more with what I wrote about last week - the fundraising the chorus did for various AIDS organizations in the 1980s and fundraising that was done for us.
In the chorus archives I discovered two letters from Gary Menger dated November 4 and 5, 1986 that were the beginning steps of planning for the first "In Memory of Friends" concert fundraisers that LGCSF was involved in. He wrote in part "there's a need to mourn our dead, confront our loss, allow ourselves a moment to slow down and feel a catharsis." Gary also included a first draft of music he would like in the show with the music flowing to form a narrative from more innocent times to what was happening in the 1980s. This went through several changes before the final script was finished and I seem to remember that everyone involved thought the music selection was exceptional.
On March 2, 1986, there was a Comedy & Cabaret show to benefit LGCSF at the 'N Touch cabaret and bar on Polk Street. One of the comedians on this show was Tom Ammiano, who was a teacher and later was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and the State Assembly. The other comic in this event was one who seemed to be everywhere at this time, Danny Williams. For those of you too young to remember these men, just Google them. The chorus also performed for the crowd.
Another benefit for LGCSF was held at the New High Chaparral bar on Market Street in the Castro on April 5. This event featured four different country western dance groups, the Savoy South Bay Stompers, the Foggy City Dancers, the S. F. Saddle Tramps and the San Jose Spurs. Of course Danny Williams was part of this show and our own Jene Bombardier entertained the crowd with her music.
On October 4, 1987, at Glide Memorial Methodist Church in the Tenderloin the chorus and Menage along with the Glide Ensemble and their musical director, Richard Dorsey, performed in a benefit for the S. F. AIDS Emergency Fund. I remember this was a really fun and uplifting event as we were able to perform before a new audience who really liked us.
Finally on December 18, 1987, the chorus presented a Christmas Concert and Carol Sing Along. The reason I mention this concert is that half of the proceeds from ticket sales went to the Larkin Street Youth Center and I believe this was the first time that we partnered with this wonderful organization.
That's it for this week and next week I will be digging more into what we did in 1985 which was a transitional year for the chorus. Stay well and stay positive - we will get through this. For those of you who maybe missed my latest Chorus Connection post the GALA Festival will be taking place next year July 7 - 11, 2021 in Minneapolis and after all this time away from each other I expect this will be the best one ever.
In harmony and love, Michael Lucero
In Memory of Friends...and in Support of Those Living with AIDS
The 1980s was a decade when AIDS hit our community at large and our chorus community. Many volunteer organizations were created to help people deal with all the different aspects of this disease. One of these was the AIDS Emergency Fund. The AEF was established in 1982 and provides immediate financial assistance to people with AIDS and disabling ARC. The idea for the concert production "In Memory of Friends ... and in Support of Those Living with AIDS" to raise funds for AEF came from the minds and hearts of Gary Menger who were a concert producers and good friends of LGCSF.
The concert was at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre on Thursday, April 9, 1987. In the Welcome page in the program, producer Gary Menger wrote in part "Everyone in this concert and everyone involved in the technical or promotional aspects of making it happen are willing volunteers because we've all lost people we loved to AIDS. This evening is offered in memory of those people. The best way we know to honor the memory of friends no longer with us is to contribute in whatever way we can toward the ease and comfort of those now living with AIDS." Then he goes on to thank all of the people, musicians and businesses who helped bring this concert to life.
LGCSF started the show with "Corner of the Sky" from "Pippin" and Menage followed with "The Greatest Love of All." The other performers in the show were local cabaret entertainers and singers such as the wonderful Weslia Whitfield, Tom Anderson, Pamela Brooks, John Lusk, and Tom Vetrano. In the middle of Act I LGCSF also sang "The Way We Were." This was followed by the San Francisco Tap Troupe and Gail Wilson performing "You and the Night and the Music." Men About Town from SFGMC performed "Mood Indigo/ Puttin' on the Ritz." The first act closed with Pamela Brooks and Company singing "San Francisco."
In the second act, the SF Gay Freedom Marching Band performed a medley from "West Side Story" and this was followed by the Vocal Minority with a medley from "The Wiz" and "The Wizard of Oz" ("Somewhere Over the Rainbow"). The entire company joined together to end the evening with "If We Only Have Love/Not a Day Goes By." This finale was arranged and conducted by Wayne Love.
On October 9, 1988, a second "In Memory of Friends" concert was held again at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre. It was produced again by Gary Menger along with his producing partner Don Johnson. The executive producers of the show were Jerry Coletti and Pat Montclaire of the Galleon restaurant. They provided all the initial funds required, agreed to cover stipends for all the participating non-profit performing groups, paid for much of the advertising, gave us free use of their meeting rooms and sent lunch to the entire company the day of dress rehearsal and provided a cast buffet after the show.
This show was a little different from the first one in that it was a "book show" meaning that members of the cast played parts and there was a story line. Gary and Don wrote in the program "We agreed to team up again for this project, and agreed on the new form it would take. Kind friends told us it was impossible to create a "book show," borrow music from other shows to fit our intent, have relatively few rehearsals, and get the whole thing right in just a couple months. We saw that the only to prove them wrong was to forge ahead and do it ... we hope you'll be pleased with the result."
Act 1 was titled "Summer, Last Year." The cast included two members of LGCSF who had gone on to be cabaret performers, Scott Johnston and Morgen Aiken. Jose Sarria, the first Empress of San Francisco, was also part of the cast. One of the scenes was set in the garden behind Jose's Upper Market fourplex. Some of the music performed was "Take Me to the World," LGCSF sang "It's a Most Unusual Day." Other songs were "Beautiful Girls," "I'm Glad I'm Not Young Anymore," and "Wherever He Ain't" at the grand opening of Jose's New "Black Cat" bar. The Band, Twirling Corps and Flag Corps performed "Before the Parade Passes By" as part of the Gay Freedom Day Parade ending the first act.
The chorus and Scott sang "Another Hundred People" and "Lonely Town" to open the second act. One of the highlights of Act 2 was "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" and the finale "Today/Tomorrow/Yesterday."
This show raised $32,000 for the AIDS Emergency Fund and Allen White wrote a glowing review of the concert in the Bay Area Reporter. As I said at the start this decade saw many fundraisers and benefits. One of these was for the San Francisco Band Foundation called "You and the Night and the Music" held on August 24, 1988 at the Venetian Room in the Fairmont Hotel. Our wonderful jazz octet, Menage, performed in this show to represent LGCSF. Just so you all know, the Venetian Room was the premier venue for all the jazz singers and players to play in San Francisco.
Another fundraiser in 1988 was "22 on the Red," a night of gambling and entertainment, which was presented at Pier Two at the Fort Mason Center. This was the annual fundraiser for the Golden Gate Business Association.
That's it for this week. I included photos of advertising for the first In Memory of Friends as well as program covers of the various events listed and photos of the presentation of the $32,000 to the AEF and LGCSF onstage in the second show. Take care of yourselves as you stay at home and remember to wash your hands. I love you all and miss singing with you more than I can say. Not quite sure what I will be writing about next week as I continue going through the archives.
Always in harmony, Michael Lucero