Greetings to you my faithful readers. If there are any new ones please let me know. I hope all of you and your loved ones in California are safe from the fires and coping with all the smoke. What a crazy week this has been for us.
Today I am writing about our second official CD "Wish You Were Here". This was released in 2000 to celebrate twenty years of making music. Our Artistic Director at this time was Michael Carlson and our accompanist was resident composer June Bonacich. The chorus was at 40 strong with an almost perfect balance among all four parts. From the back cover Michael wrote, "Live concert recordings proudly presented by the men and women of the Lesbian/ Gay Chorus of San Francisco, celebrating twenty years of music!" The music was recorded in three venues in San Francisco - Herbst Theatre, First Unitarian Church, and Murphy Auditorium in Mission High School.
Here is a little bit of what I remember about these concerts and Michael Carlson as director. With input from the artistic advisory committee he brought us music that challenged us because he saw the potential in us to be able to sing complex music and sing it well. On this CD there is a song in Tagalog, and one in Yiddish. There was music by gay and lesbian composers which is part of our mission to share their music. With regular rehearsals, out of town retreats and sectionals we were prepared to always give our best.
The CD begins with a grand anthem "You Are the Light" by Leo Arnaud. Next is "Begin the Beguine" by that gayest of composers Cole Porter. For this we had choralography by Kirk Johnston. Next is "Give Me the Splendid, Silent Sun" which is 20th century classical choral music which gave us the chance to show our stuff. Next is "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen with the head banging choreography at the bridge. Next was "Nina," a fun ditty by another gay composer, Noel Coward, with a great solo by Eric Wenburg. Next is "The Spirit of Creation" which was another challenging piece. Next was "Dahil Sa Iyo" (Because of You) a Tagalog love song that was a favorite of Imelda Marcos.
Next was "Erev Shel Shoshanim" (Evening of Roses) which we sang in Yiddish. It is a beautiful song and well worth looking for. Next was "My Heart is Longing for Your Love" which we sang acappella. Next was a song by composer Eric Whitacre. This was the very romantic "With a Lily in Your Hand" from "Three Flower Songs". Next we went to Motown and performed "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" by Ashford & Simpson complete with all the Motown choreography and big arm movements made easy for us by Kirk Johnson. Next was "Dysfunctional Relationship" by June Bonacich which was a song which was part of a musical she was writing for us. Next we sang "Shenandoah" acappella in a beautiful arrangement by James Erb. The CD ends with a favorite of ours "I Open My Heart" by Skye Evergreen, who I have written about in a previous History Corner.
Each of the artistic directors that I have sung with over the years has taught me something new in my musical journey with this chorus and Michael was no exception as he brought music that he enjoyed and we learned well. Next week I will continue my journey in LGCSF music and art with you. Take care of yourselves.
In harmony and love, Michael Lucero
Greetings to all of my loyal readers. I hope you all made it through the wild night of thunder and lightning last night. I hope you have power from PG&E back on. For the next few weeks I want to write about the Music and Art of LGCSF beginning with my memories of our first CD "Together in Harmony" under the direction of our Artistic Director Pat Parr taken from concerts in 1992 and 1993, a recording session in 1992 and released in 1994. I have included photos of the front and back covers of the CD and one of the chorus from the booklet. At this point there were 107 of us in the chorus. Yolanda and I are the only ones still singing with LGCSF. We also had an Assistant Conductor, Marty Stoddard, who composed the music along with lyrics by member Leslie Steere, "Love Song." Dwight Okamura, our wonderful accompanist, composed "Three Songs on Texts by Marguerite Radclyffe-Hall" - "At the Shrine of Aphrodite", "Hands and Lips", and "Take Me With You When You Fly".
Pat wrote in the liner notes, "Together in Harmony is the first recording released by the Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco. It is also among the first recordings released by a mixed group of Lesbians and Gay Men in the United States - perhaps the world! The music of this recording is as diverse as the membership of the chorus: from Brahms to Jule Styne, from ballads to joyously rhythmic exclamations. We are especially proud that five of the pieces were written specifically for LGCSF and another of the pieces - "Survivors" - was premiered at our 1993 Pride Concert. It is one of our goals to encourage and perform new music written by and for members of our community, and through this recording we hope to bring some of this music to a broader audience for their appreciation and enjoyment.
"The recordings were garnered from digitally mastered tapes of three concerts and a recording session, so the keen listener may hear some differences in the acoustics of the halls - as well as an occasional cough or baby's cry. I wish to thank our recording engineer Keith Sklower for his consistent patience with me during this process. I also wish to thank Stan Hill and Justin Taylor of the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus and Cathy Roma of MUSE: Cincinnati's Women's Choir for their encouragement and knowledge so freely given."
There are five songs from our "Classics of Nature" concert which was on October 23, 1992, in Oakland's First Unitarian Church. These were three by Johannes Brahms, and two by Lloyd Pfautch. From our "Fantasies" concert in March, 1993 there is "Never Never Land". From the "Lesbian & Gay Composers" concert in October, 1993 is "I am Here" by our own Michael McDonald and Marty Cormier. Our recording session was in fall of 1993 in the rehearsal hall of First Unitarian Church, SF. It was kind of a nerve wracking experience since we sang each song or parts of a song over and over to get them right. And we had to keep quiet between each recording segment but we got through it and I will be sending our my iTunes playlist to you later on Chorus Connection. Take care of yourselves and each other and I am always sending my love. In harmony, Michael Lucero
Hello to all my faithful readers and hopefully some new ones. This week I thought I wouldn't write about LGCSF but about Legato European Association of LGBTQ+ Choirs and the Various Voices Festival. Legato and Various Voices are similar to GALA Choruses and their Festivals. The first VV Festival was in 1985 in Cologne, Germany with 4 choirs from 4 countries. I first became aware of VV in 2008 during GALA Festival in Miami. Martin Brophy, a man who we had met previously on vacation in London, was there to promote VV in London 2009 with 59 choirs with 1,800 singers from 14 countries. Since then this was on our bucket list of things we wanted to do. I have included nine photos, a poster of Various Voices, the Festival Guide, a photo of the opening concert, then the Homonics, the Deep C Divas, BarberFellas, the Pride flag over Odeonsplatz, rehearsal and performance of "Carmina Burana."
So we were off to Munich in May, 2018 with a friend from here. We knew we would be seeing Martin again as he sings with the London Gay Men's Chorus and the European Queer Choir. Another person we were hoping to see was Simon Pearson who sings with the Pink Singers and the BarberFellas. We also would be seeing Homonics, three lads from Dublin who also sing with Gloria, the Dublin LGBTQ Choir. We were also looking forward to seeing as many choruses as we could and to meet and mingle with these singers. This VV was the fourteenth Festival for Legato and there were 93 choirs with 2,700 singers from 19 countries represented. This was held in the Gasteig Cultural Center with four performance venues hosting chorus performances in each over the five days of VV.
There was an Opening Concert which featured the parade of choirs with a representative of each with a sign with the name of the choir. Also there was the official welcome from the Mayor of Munich, music by the Festival Orchestra, which was put together for VV 2018 only, the Groove Sistaz a 17 piece female big band who brought the house down. Also the four host choruses of Munich joined to sing their welcome.
On Friday, May 11, was the big blockbuster concert - "Munchen in Space - an InterGALActic Concert Night" with Conchita Wurst (check her out on Youtube Eurovision 2014 winning performance of "Rise Like a Phoenix"), Andreas Scholl and ten choirs with their intergalactic songs. This was quite an event and you can see this on Youtube, just type the title of the concert above and be aware that it actually begins 30 minutes in.
Besides singing in the Gasteig, choruses were also performing outside in two of the main squares of Munich, the Odeonsplatz and Max-Joseph-Platz. One of the reasons I wanted to be here was that the "Carmina Burana" would be performed outside in Odeonsplatz with all the singers of VV, an orchestra and three professional singers singing the solos, a children's chorus and the citizens of Munich. We had two days of rehearsals in the main concert hall and outside on Saturday, May 12 with the performance that evening. This was thrilling for me to be surrounded by all the wonderful singers as we were accompanied by the orchestra under the evening sky of Munich. There was a big party afterward in the lobbies of the Gasteig with dancing, cocktails and food and this was a time to spend with new found friends.
There were singers from the US representing GALA Choruses, the Rock Creek Singers and Potomac Fever, two small groups from Washington DC GMC, Oursong Atlanta, and Menalive from Orange County, and a North American GALA Festival Chorus. I highly recommend attending a future Various Voices Festival so put this on your bucket list if and when we can go to Europe again. The next one is scheduled for May (I think) of 2023 in Bologna, Italy. I will let you know more as Legato updates their website for this wonderful Festival.
You can see more videos from Various Voices on Youtube, just type in various voices festival 2018 in the search bar so please let me know what you watched. I am not sure what I will write about next time but I am still going through the archives so stay tuned. Sending you all my love and stay focused on something positive for you to get you through these times. Sharing these memories with you is one of these for me.
In harmony and love, Michael Lucero
Greetings to all of my faithful readers (I know you are out there) and welcome to any new readers of my blog. I hope you are doing well and staying healthy and positive. Hopefully what I do brightens your day a little bit. I have included three photos from the program book and three videos - one which is a highlight video and look for Melanie DeMore with a big chorus who all have their pounding sticks. The next is of the song "Our Phoenix" performed by the Festival Mixed Chorus and written by our friend Mari Elena Valverde. The third is the Orlando Gay Chorus with a speech about the Pulse Club massacre in June and how the chorus has coped with the aftermath and their opening song "You'll Never Walk Alone." Grab your hankies for this.
This week I will be writing more about my experiences at GALA Festival X which took place in a little over four years ago in Denver from July 2 to 6, 2016. Yes we were back in Denver and performing in the four theatres of the Denver Performing Arts Center and also in the Bellco Theatre in the Denver Convention Center for the Closing Concert. For those of you who have never been to the Denver Performing Arts Center let me tell you a bit about the layout. These theatres are in a galleria setting with a dome over the walkway between the theatres and parking garage.
For the opening, "A Colorado Welcome" was held in this galleria area and featured the seven Colorado choruses performing the world premiere of a Festival 2016 commission by Nathan Hall called "Mountains & Rivers" celebrating the beauty of Colorado. The members of the choruses sang this from the many levels of the galleria to the audience of delegates and visitors and residents of Denver who were there. Earlier in this afternoon of July 2 a flash mob of 500 GALA singers sang "If I Were Gay" from "Avenue Q" at the Denver Pavilions to an appreciative audience there.
Following in the tradition of Blockbuster Concerts from last Festival, the first of these was that evening in Boettcher Concert Hall. This was the big Opening Concert with guest artists Matt Alber, Holly Near and our good friend Melanie DeMore. In fact the concert began with Holly and Melanie singing Holly's song "I am Willing". Matt, Holly and Melanie joined the choruses who were part of this concert. Melanie joined with One Voice Mixed Chorus and OurSong - the Atlanta Gay and Lesbian Chorus to sing "Free, Free, Free" which is one of the songs that Melanie taught us for our "Rise" concert. Melanie was very busy during this week as she led a workshop on Sunday morning on "The Art of Gullah Stick Pounding" and which she shared with us the history of this beautiful art as we were in rehearsals for "Rise." She also taught us about the background of the decorations of the sticks that we would be given and use in our concert.
Another of the Blockbuster Concerts was called "Engendered Species" and featured collaborations between the SATB choruses for a wonderful evening of song and sharing and during our rehearsal times with Harmony: a Colorado Chorale, which was led by Bill Loper and who was one of the persons who auditioned for Artistic Director of LGCSF, was a time to form friendships with these singers and for all the choruses to create meaningful music. The song we sang with Harmony was "Gate Gate" with lyrics of a Sanskrit text.
Speaking of collaborating, we sang, rehearsed and hung out with our friends from across the Bay, the Oakland Gay Men's Chorus. As the last song of our set on July 4, we were joined by OGMC to perform Jack Curtis Dubowsky's "Was It the Wind?" which was commissioned by both choruses and which we gave the world premiere at the SF Pride Concert in June.
Another Blockbuster Concert that was a highlight for us was "Youth Invasion from Gay to Z" which featured the seven youth choruses who were there to perform for us. These were Bridging Voices of Portland, Diverse City Youth Chorus of Cincinnati, Diverse Harmony of Seattle, Diverse Harmony Spectrum of Seattle, GenOUT Chorus of Washington, D.C., Omaggio Youth Chorus of Phoenix, and Youth PRIDE Chorus of New York City. Another youth chorus, Dreams of Hope presented their video "Home." As at all the youth chorus performances of the past, all of us in the audience were laughing, enjoying, crying and applauding these wonderfully talented young people.
Two more highlights that we really enjoyed were the ones the Seattle Women's Chorus and Seattle Men's Chorus. The SWC's Coffee Concert was entitled "We Can Do It" which was an original musical by Eric Lane Barnes to celebrate the women during World War II, the Rosie the Riveters who changed the American workplace forever. The women of the chorus were all in costume with their variations on Rosie the Riveter. A few of the song titles were "Wendy the Welder", "Mama's Makin' Bombers!", and "It Ain't Woman's Work."
The other was the Seattle Men's Chorus set as they bid farewell to their beloved Artistic Director, Dennis Coleman, as he was retiring after 36 years (I think), of leading this wonderful chorus. Of course there were many tears as he took his leave and as the Seattle Women's Chorus came onstage to sing with the men this was a powerful statement of what an important organization that GALA Choruses are.
See you next week when I will be writing about my experiences in Munich at the Various Voices Festival of 2018. Take care of yourselves and stay healthy.
As always I send my love, Michael Lucero