Artistic Director Trente Morant - 1997-1998
Hello all of my faithful readers, I know you are out there from the responses I have gotten from our wonderful Board president, Rachel Pokorny. I have also heard on Facebook from a former singer and tenor, Tim O'Bayley who now lives in Palm Springs, and from the young women from USF who have been at several rehearsals who told me that they enjoy reading about the history of our chorus and gay choruses that they have read about on their own.
I would like to say a few more things about Pat Parr before moving on to the next Artistic Director. The Five Years of Madness concert that I wrote about last week was to have been on May 1 and 2, 1992. If you know your history from that time, that was when the Rodney King verdict was given to the police officers who beat him. April 30, our dress rehearsal at First Congregational Church, was the night of the Rodney King riots. We had to cancel our May 1 concert and we had to honor the people who had tickets for that show so our May 2 concert was a more than full house and due to the emotions of that time we gave a hell of a performance. This is one thing I will always remember about Pat and how he was able to get all of us through that time and that night.
And one more thing - at the 19th Annual Pride Concert, which was Pat's last time with us at the podium, as I was reading through the program, the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus sang their traditional Irish Blessing to him as a "Tribute to Pat Parr in Loving Appreciation for his Selfless Dedication and Uncompromising Artistry in the Choral Arts." This concert was also a tribute to Sky Evergreen, a jazz pianist and cabaret performer in the City in the 1980s. He wrote the arrangements for the songs we sang that night, "Lover Come Back To Me," "For All We Know," and "How Long Has This Been Going On." The chorus always appreciated his gift of music that he gave to us.
Now onto my memories about our next Artistic Director, Trente Morant. He was the first African American AD for the chorus. I remember the first time I met him was when I was on the Artistic Advisory Committee and we had our first meeting with him. He has an impressive background in music. He toured the country for five years as Performer- Lecturer specializing in music from the Harlem Renaissance. He had also served as Musical Director for many theaters in the New York area for productions of "West Side Story," "Candide," "On the Town," "Pirates of Penzance," "Pippin," "Chicago" and others. He also served as Artistic Director of the Oakland Youth Chorus and had conducted in both the Monterey and San Francisco Jazz Festivals. He also performed in a concert version of "Porgy and Bess" with Michael Morgan and the East Bay Symphony.
Trente was with the chorus as AD for a year and led us in three concerts. The chorus was at about 45 strong at this time. The first was called "Love Is In The Air" and we sang music in a variety of styles that all had in some way to do with love. There were songs like "Unchained Melody," I Got Rhythm," "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," "Getting Married Today," "Let It Be Me," and "Ain't Misbehavin'." We also sang a song written by Sky Evergreen called "I Open My Heart" which had become a signature song for us. One of the fun highlights was a soprano and alto quintet singing "The Telephone Hour" from "Bye Bye Birdie" - "did you hear about Kim?, did she really get pinned?" Trente wrote some additional lyrics for "I Want to Be Happy" and made the song a lot gayer.
As you can see Trente brought a lot of music to us from his background in theater. Trente was also a very flamboyant personality and when it came to concert nights we never knew what he would be wearing. Our second concert with him was called "Spice It Up" and we shared the stage at the Cowell Theater with Jill Togawa of Purple Moon Dance Project, Jackeline Rago of Crosspulse. Again Trente brought us a wide variety of music to perform by ourselves and with our special guests. There was a lot of rhythm and movement woven through the songs. We sang "I've Got Plenty of Nothing" from "Porgy and Bess", two songs by Sweet Honey in the Rock, "Oughta Be a Woman" and "Breaths", a couple of spirituals, "I've Been 'Buked" and "Hold On" which we also have sung recently. We sang a "Gloria" in the traditional manner which was written and arranged by Trente. We also performed two excerpts from "Spiritual Procession" by Jackeline Rago, "Sangueos," and "Calypso" and ended the show with "Under the Full Moonlight" and "Afro Blue" which was written by Oscar Peterson and arranged by Trente.
The third concert with Trente was the 20th Annual Pride Concert - High on Pride - 20 Years Singing Proud. Our special guests were Qwire - Canberra, Australia's Gay and Lesbian Chorus, SFGMC and San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band. We were hosts to the chorus from Canberra and we had a rehearsal together and social time with them in the days before the concert. It was fun and inspiring to meet these singers from down under. They had also been to Portland to sing with the Portland Lesbian and Gay Chorus. Some of the music we sang was "Tuxedo Junction" arranged by Trente, "Sentimental Journey," "I Open My Heart" and we ended with a piece by Trente called "Take Off," which we did that night. Trente really showed and helped us how to be able to move and sing at the same time and to trust and believe in ourselves that we could do and sing anything and above all to have fun.
If you would like to see Trente perform, he will be doing a show at the Society Cabaret located in the Harvey Milk Center, 50 Scott Street, on May 17 at 8:00 pm. The show is called "Get on Your Mark, Get Set, Sing." I am sure this will be a wonderful evening of his music.
Next week I will be writing about our interim director, Bill Ganz.
Cheers, love, song, Michael Lucero