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