Pat Parr, AD, Part 1 - 1987-1991
As I continue the History Corner and writing about the Artistic Directors that I have sung with, I share my memories of the first five years with Pat Parr. After an artistic director search through early 1987, Pat was chosen by vote to be our new AD. As stated in his biography in the 9th Annual Pride Concert program, which was his first conducting the chorus, he came to LGCSF with a wide variety of musical experience. He was a Summa Cum Laude graduate of Oklahoma City University. Pat moved to San Francisco in 1976 and had been musical director of shows in SF, Berkeley, Santa Clara and Yosemite National Park. In 1980 he was accompanist for the San Francisco Girls Chorus and in 1982 became accompanist for the Contra Costa Chorale. He also sang with the Dick Kramer Gay Men's Chorale prior to becoming our AD.
I received a response from a former tenor in the chorus, Tim O'Bayley, saying that he had read my recent blog about Matt O'Grady and how much he enjoyed it as it brought back memories. Tim also said he was wondering what I would be writing about Pat since Tim joined the chorus in 190. As the chorus got to know him and Pat began to know the chorus through our first rehearsals, it was obvious that he was a good fit for us. With his blonde good looks and outgoing and welcoming personality, soon half of the men of the chorus had fallen in love with him.
As Pat met with the Board of Directors and the various committees of the chorus, he began to lay out what he wanted from the chorus regarding the types of concerts he envisioned us performing. He wanted to do a "stand and sing" style concert, which were mostly in the classical tradition but also to perform music by gay and lesbian composers. He also wanted us to do big shows with us in costumes and performing some sort of "choralography." And he wanted us to produce the Pride Concerts and also to sing in holiday concerts.
One thing that I remember about the first Pride Concert that Pat conducted was that was the first time we sang "Hand in Hand" by a member of the chorus, Jesse Kane. We sang this as the finale to the concert. In August, there was a review of this concert in The Advocate, and it said in part that "the surprises of the show were the Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco and its pops offshoot Menage, both under Pat's direction. Under the leadership of Parr, the Lesbian/Gay Chorus has discovered a new fullness and balance that previous concerts had not revealed. The group's singing of Jesse Kane's "Hand in Hand" provided one of the most moving moments in choral singing I've seen. On the last line, "We're hand in hand reaching out for one another, hand in hand," ASL interpreter Stefan Lazar stood still and sang while the chorus sang and signed the words." To me that was the signal that Pat would be taking us on a great and wonderful journey of really finding out who we were as singers and interpreters of the music we sang.
Our first big show was LGCSF Rides Again, a country western music themed show. We featured four country music dance groups from around the Bay Area and they were all big hits. Next for us in 1987, we were honored, along with the SFGMC, to be invited by Joan Baez to sing in her Christmas concert held at the Warfield Theatre. This was also broadcast live on KQED on that night.
In 1988, we followed the pattern of concerts that Pat had designed. Our spring concert was a classical one, in June was the Pride Concert, our fall concert was our big production show. By the time of the fall show, we were at 50 strong and growing. Also that year we were invited to participate in a fundraising show for the AIDS Emergency Fund at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre called "In Memory of Friends and in Support of Those Living with AIDS."
In 1989, again we followed the above pattern of concerts. This year we also went to Seattle to perform over the course of a week in July at the GALA Choruses Festival along with 47 other choruses from the U.S. and Canada. This was an eye opening experience for us to know that there are all these other talented lesbian and gay choruses out there to learn from and share our love of music and to perform in front of our peers. This was held at the University of Washington and all choruses stayed in the dorms for the week. That of course led to lots of fun as we got to know the singers from other choruses who were staying just down the hall or a floor above or below us.
So next week I will be writing Part 2 of the Pat Parr years 1992-1997.
Love, in harmony, Michael Lucero