Part II of the Pat Parr Years - 1992-1997
Hello to all my faithful readers. This week I will be writing about my memories of our Artistic Director, Pat Parr, from 1992 through 1997.
But first I would like to go back to 1988 and our spring concert "A Touch of Classics." In the program notes, Pat tells of what he would like to have the chorus perform and his answer was "Gabriel Faure's Requiem" which we sang in this concert. We also performed outside of San Francisco for the first time in Berkeley. This was an example of what we would learn was how Pat thought outside of the box.
By 1992, Pat had over the past couple of years had established that we would do a big production show in spring, the Pride concert in June and a more typical classical style concert in the fall. Our big spring concert in 1992 was called "Five Years of Madness." In the program notes, Pat wrote "Tonight's concert is a compilation of some of my favorites from our past 'production' concerts. While it is great to do Brahms and Bernstein, it is equally exciting to get on stage and put on a 'show.' Many Lesbians and Gay Men in the legitimate theatre (and on screen) never have a chance to sing a love song to or about the person of their dreams. The five productions represented tonight have allowed us not only to camp it up and laugh, but also to share some of our deeper emotions." The picture of the chorus on stairs was taken at the 1992 GALA Choruses Festival in Denver. Don't we look fabulous.
Some of the madness that we presented onstage was to bring what we did backstage onto the stage. There were panels located on the stage behind which we did quick costume changes in preparation for the next songs. The shows we sang music from were "The Lesbian/Gay Chorus Rides Again," "The LGCSF Goes to the Movies," The LGCSF Goes to Broadway," "Radio Daze," and "Bobby Sox to Beatles." As you can imagine, each of these shows required different sets and costumes and of course all of the music for these shows was memorized. There was lots of hard work but it all paid off for us and for our audiences. For this concert, we had 76 members and Pat worked with Gregg Tallman as stage director and Gene Russo as choreographer. Pat's dedication to the chorus and his vision for it is what motivated us as singers to give our all to be the best we could be.
In 1994 and 1995 we had season brochures and the fact that we were able to do this was in large part due to the vision of Pat and our Board of Directors. In 1994, the chorus received the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce Arts Excellence Award. 1995 was our Crystal Anniversary year and it was called "A Season of Stars." We also had a Community Advisory Board up until 1996 and among the people on this board were a number of financial angels that helped the chorus behind the scenes.
In April of 1994, we travelled to Seattle as guests of the Seattle Lesbian and Gay Chorus to sing in their concert called "Boys and Girls Together." The Vancouver Lesbian and Gay Chorus were also on the concert. This was a great time for us to be able to meet and perform with these other wonderful singers. Also in March 1994 we recorded and released our first CD "Together in Harmony" featuring music that we had performed with Pat up to that point. One of the attachments is a copy of the order form for the CD we used. As you can see, 1994 was a busy year for us.
Also during these years, we were the producer of the Pride Concert so this meant arranging to have guest performers like the SFGMC and the Freedom Band, the Golden Gate Men's Chorus, Voices Lesbian Ensemble and other groups to share the stage. This also meant many meetings with representatives from all of these groups to have all of their program information and whatever staging needs might be needed. During this time, I was a member of the Production Committee. Pat always had big ideas especially for the production shows and we had to somehow rein him in and say this is our budget and we have to stick to it. I remember at that time all of the chorus committees worked closely together and there were monthly committee chair meetings to keep abreast of what we were all doing. Pat insisted that all of this coordination was happening to make things go as smoothly as possible as concert dates approached.
The big production concert of 1996 was a "Tribute to the Music of Elton John." Our accompanist, Dwight Okamura, was a big Elton fan and he really showed his piano chops during the concert, especially on "Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding" from "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," which opened the second half of the show. We had lots of fun at our weekend retreat decorating our big Elton glasses, and working on our costumes as well as the choreography and music for the show.
In 1997, we did a switch in our former concert order. Pat had always wanted to conduct "Carmina Burana" and the opportunity came up in conjunction with the Peninsula Ballet. We did two shows, one at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre and at a theatre in Los Altos. The 1997 Pride Concert was Pat's last time conducting us and we gave the songs we sang and gave our all for him. It was a great sendoff for him but also a sad time for us. But we moved on and I will be writing about our next Artistic Director, Trente Morant, next week. See you then.
In harmony and love, Michael Lucero