Greetings to all of you wonderful readers of this blog. This week I am writing about another of our collaborative concerts we were part of in the first half of 2016. On this concert, which was presented on May 14 and 15, 2016, we were guests of the Oakland-East Bay Gay Men's Chorus. Also on this program was the Berkeley Community Chamber Singers under the direction of Derek Tam. At this point our artistic director, Billy Sauerland, was also the director of OEBGMC. In the program notes Billy wrote, in part, "I am brand new as the Artistic Director of this organization, and while transitions can be challenging, these incredible men have shown me such joy! I am honored to be standing in front of them." Billy also wrote "We are presenting two new, fabulous, and distinct pieces. The upbeat and gay drinking tune from Jack Curtis Dubowsky is 'A Bacchanalian Song', which celebrates the joy of vino. On a far more serious tone, we present the world premiere of 'Los cinco lunas de Lorca', by the internationally-renowned composer Gabriela Lena Frank, and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz."
The concert opened with OEBGMC singing "Sing for Joy!" by G. F. Handel which was followed by "Bonse Aba" a traditional Zambian folk song. Next they sang two songs from "Hold Fast to Dreams" with music by Dave Brubeck, set to poems by Langston Hughes. They ended their set with the two pieces I mentioned above, "A Bacchanalian Song" and "Las cinco lunas de Lorca".
Next onstage were the Berkeley Community Chamber Singers. They opened with "Bonse Aba" which was followed by the "23rd Psalm" with music by Bobby McFerrin. Then came a couple of songs by Stephen Foster - "Hard Times Come Again No More" and "Nelly Bly." They also performed the traditional spiritual "Soon Ah Will Be Done" and ended their se with "For the Longest Time" by Billy Joel.
After intermission, Billy led LGCSF on and we started with another traditional spiritual "Hold On" and we followed this with "It's You I Like" by Fred Rogers - yes Mr. Rogers. Next we sand "Earth Song" by Frank Tichelli and then we performed a song by Billy's favorite singer, Julie Andrews, "Time is My Friend". We then ended our set with "One Person" from the Jerry Herman Broadway musical "Dear World".
Then OEBGMC was back on to sing their final set. They began with "Let the River Run" by Carly Simon, then "Luck Be a Lady" from "Guys and Dolls". They next sang a song which has become somewhat of a gay anthem, "Make Them Hear You" from "Ragtime the Musical" by Stephen Flaherty. To spice things up, their next song was "Smooth" which was recorded by Santana and Rob Thomas. OEBGMC ended the concert with "Proud" by Peter John Vettese and Heather Small. "What have you done today to make you feel proud?"
It was great for us to collaborate again with OEBGMC and we have formed friendships with many of the men of this chorus over the years. It was also great for the first time to be on a concert with the Berkeley Community Chamber Singers. This is one thing I have always looked forward to being a part of as part of all the various Pride Concerts and other times when we have sung with other choruses. That musical connection is something that we all share.
Next week I will be writing about our Pride Concert so stay tuned. As always your faithful historian, Michael Lucero. I recently got from Kim Hargreaves several boxes of chorus archives from the early 1990s. I have never seen these so as I go through them I will be sharing with you photos and stories from that time.
Cheers in harmony, Michael
Greetings to my faithful readers. Here is the next entry all about the concerts we performed in 2016. It was a busy year for us and our AD, Billy Sauerland, had programmed this concert and the following two as collaborative concerts with different choruses joining us onstage. We were also preparing music to perform in Denver at the 2016 GALA Choruses Festival so these concerts allowed us to sing some of the repertoire we would sing there.
"Together in Harmony" was on April 17 at MCC where we all rehearse. This concert was a collaboration between LGCSF and the Metropolitan Community Church Choir. Erik Flaten was the MCCSF Music Director and he also sang with us sometimes. Billy also liked to use guest soloists from the Chabot College choir which he conducted. The first three songs were performed by the combined choruses. Lorenzo Murillo was the guest tenor and he had the solo on our first song "Ella's Song" which was written by Bernice Johnson Reagon of Sweet Honey in the Rock. This was followed by "Famine Song" featuring Wendy Tobias, Elisa Shore and Mark Higgins as soloists. The third was John Lennon's "Imagine".
Then LGCSF was on as we sang "Gay Little Nymph" by Francois Regnard and Pierre Ronsard. Billy told us he liked this piece because it had the word "gay" in the title. This was followed by "Come Again, Sweet Love" by John Dowland, "Erev Shel Shoshanim" by Yosef Hadar, which has become a favorite of the chorus over the years. Next came "This Marriage" by Eric Whitacre, which the chorus sang at a marriage ceremony held in Golden Gate Park in the Conservatory of Flowers. Next we sang the Beatles song "Can't Buy Me Love" which had been arranged as a madrigal and was a challenge to learn in this manner. We closed our set with "Seize the Day" by Alan Menken from the musical "Newsies."
Next the MCCSF Choir was on to sing "Sweet Rivers" by William Moore, "Alleuja" from "Exultate, jubilate" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. They ended their set with "I Heard the Voice of Jesus" by Edwin Hawkins.
Then LGCSF came back and joined MCCSF Choir to sing selections for the GALA Chorus Festival. These were "It's You I Like" by Fred Rogers (yes that Mr. Rogers), "Earth Song" by Frank Ticheli, "Time is My Friend" by Julie Andrews - who is Billy's favorite singer, and we ended the concert with a traditional spiritual "Hold On" which sent all of us out with the uplifting feeling that only good live music can do.
This was a fun concert to be part of and to sing with the MCCSF Choir since they provide us with our rehearsal space and of course just to spend time with them and to have our efforts pay off and enjoyed by our audience.
See you all next week with my next entry for the blog.
Cheers and love, Michael Lucero
Hello to all my faithful readers. I want to thank some of the new singers for their feedback on the History Corner blog. As I always say any and all feedback is welcome and encouraged. Over the next few weeks I will be writing about the concerts and events we took part in 2016.
The first was the 13th Annual Love Bites show at Martuni's. This one was entitled "Love is a Four-Letter Word" and we performed three shows - February 1, 14 and 15. We had as our guest musical director the lovely and talented Joe Wicht. Joe offered his time and talent to work with the soloists and they took advantage of this to make sure they would shine and of course they and we all did. We had three special guest performers who shared their special talents with our audiences. On February 13 it was Jesse Cortez, on the 14th it was Steve Knill and on the 15th it was Leigh Crow.
We opened with "Sway" which got the audience in the mood. Next up was Wendy Tobias singing "Life of the Party" from the musical "The Wild Party". This was followed by a country song written by Hoyt Axton called "Hangnail" and featured the multitalented Ellen Miller and Tom McElroy. Next Dale Danley gave his all on "Pray for You". The chorus came back on to do our rendition of "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'". Then Julia Balen soloed on "An Old-Fashioned Love Story" also from "The Wild Party". Then John Gullotto sang his heart out on Cole Porter's "Begin the Beguine". From the "Saturday Night Fever" soundtrack our very talented and lovely Janice Placido sang "If I Can't Have You" and she was accompanied by Johnny G. on ukulele. Next the beautiful Liz Wand sang "Baltimore" and we went to intermission.
During intermission we had an auction for a Valentine's Song-O-Gram to be performed by our Board member and local cabaret headliner Tom Reardon.
The second half began with the chorus singing Barry Manilow's "Copacabana" with Joan Goldman, Ellen and Tom M. soloing on the verses. The amazingly wonderful Van Mares was up next performing "If I Can't Sell It, I'll Sit on It". I guess it is up to your imagination as to what IT refers to. Next the always wistful Paul Michael Alves gave us "Guess Who I Saw Today". Next Joan Goldman gave it her all on "Total Eclipse of the Heart". The following number was a parody written by the creative mind of Yolanda DeByle entitled CBA (Contraception, Birth by unwed women, Abortion). This was a parody on the Jackson 5 song ABC. This featured the Bible Belters: Yolanda, Linda Rodriguey, Asher Butnik and Van Mares. Wendy Tobias was back with her solo on "But the World Goes 'Round" from the movie "New York, New York". The show ended with a bang with the chorus singing "Steppin' Out With My Baby" with Asher on the solo. We wished our audiences to go stepping out with their babies and to have a song in their hearts. The chorus had a lot of fun with this music and the audience responded with enthusiastic applause and much laughter.
See you next week with the next entry of the chorus in 2016.
All my love, Michael Lucero
Hello to all my faithful readers and all of the new singers who have joined our community. This time I will be writing about our fourth official recording. This was produced by our Artistic Director, Stephanie Lynne Smith, to celebrate our 25th Anniversary in 2005. The music on the CD was all recorded live at three different concerts, two in 2004 and the third in 2005. The chorus at the time of these concerts was at 48 strong including a straight married couple, Becky and Sean Quinlan, who from the day they joined us fit right in with the chorus as we welcomed them to come along on this journey. I remember the anticipation I felt as I went through the rehearsals as we learned this wonderful music.
The music from the first of these concerts, "Composers in the Mist", consists of three pieces composed and arranged by Jack Curtis Dubowsky. They are "Twilight in Technicolor", "Double Nut", and "Sing We and Chant It". The other piece form this concert is "Dysfunctional Relationship" by June Bonacich. This track was sponsored by Stephanie Smith. All of the music from this concert was composed and/or arranged by living gay and lesbian composers. Featuring music by gay and lesbian composers is one of the missions of our chorus.
The music from the second of these concerts, "Something's Coming", which featured the chorus performing songs as we looked forward to our 25th anniversary year. The first song from this concert was "There Comes a Time", which was given to us by Kathleen McGuire and SFGMC. The second one was "If Music Be the Food of Love". The third was "Let the River Run" by Carly Simon with CeCe Cannavo singing the solo. The fourth was "Bashana Haba'ah", a beautiful song which we sang in Hebrew.
The final four songs on the CD were from our 25th Anniversary concert which was held at the Brava Theatre. The first of these songs was "Something Inside So Strong" by The Flirtations. This track was sponsored by Mary Cantrell. The second song was "EErev Shel Shoshanim", another beautiful song sung in Hebrew. This track was sponsored by a good friend from SFGMC, Michael Levy. He wrote "Congratulations to LGCSF on the tremendous milestone of your 25th anniversary. On this 'Evening of Roses' may you continue to grow and bloom for the next 25 years." The third song we performed was "Land of the Free" by David Maddux with solos by Nick Venegoni and Lisa Rodke. The final song on the CD we performed was "Somewhere" by Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein. This song was our signature song during the early years of the chorus. It was sponsored by GALA Choruses for us. Alumni of the chorus joined us onstage as we sang and gave this song to our wonderful audience.
If anyone would like to listen to my CD just let me know.
Next week I will be back to writing about our 2016 season concert by concert. As always any feedback from you is most welcome.
Cheers in harmony, Michael Lucero, Historian
Hello to all of my faithful readers and to you new members of the group who have been reading this blog. I thank and appreciate your reading our history because I feel it is important to have this out there for everyone to read. Any feedback from you is always appreciated.
"Group Therapy" was the brainchild of our talented and beautiful June Bonacich and somewhat loosely based on her experience of group therapy or so I've been told. This was the first musical written especially just for LGCSF and June worked closely with Stephanie Smith, our AD for this production. If any of you have been part of a musical you know that there is a lot of collaboration among everyone involved. This was true for us but we knew we had something really wonderful to present to our audience.
It was hard work and lots of fun for all of us to learn the music for this musical. The main cast also had to do extra work to learn their lines and their roles. For me it was really great to watch them as they all really got their roles and were able to do a little improvisation during the performances we gave. The opening weekend of "Group Therapy" we gave three performances on November 3, 4 and 5, 2005 with a dress rehearsal on November 2. The dress rehearsal was the performance that was recorded for our CD of the show so it was all done on the first take. The production staff and production committee all worked their butts off to make sure everything went smoothly. Even the orchestra we had was beautiful. It consisted of June Bonacich on synthesizer, Alyras on bass, Erika Johnson on drums, Luba Kravchenko on piano and Ashley Moore on electric guitar.
The cast was Katie: Wendy Tobias; Stan: Shane Kroll; Jenny: Noam Szoke; Evelyn the therapist: Mary Cantrell; P. Francis Tucker: Scott Turco; Jill: Sharon Gong; Marybeth: CeCe Cannavo; Nathan: Jed Herman. Many in this group have had some kind of experience in local or high school musical productions.
The chorus also took "Group Therapy" on the road in 2006 where we did three performances as part of the culture week at the Gay Games in Chicago and this was fun for us to present it to a whole new audience.
If anyone would like to borrow my CD of this show just let me know and I will be happy to share it with you. Take care of yourselves this week and see you on Thursday at rehearsal.
Cheers and my love, Michael Lucero
Hello faithful readers and hope you had a safe Labor Day weekend. One more thing I wanted to say about the recording of "Together in Harmony". This was the first time that I had been part of a recording session so it was a new experience for me. There was a lot of repeating of phrases of a song to make the recording as good as possible. Pat Parr worked with our recording engineer, Keith Sklower of the Band, who was very patient with Pat and us throughout the whole process.
The next chorus recording that I am writing about is titled "Wish You Were Here". The chorus was under the leadership of Michael Carlson and our accompanist was the lovely and talented June Bonacich. At this point the chorus was 40 strong.
The music on this CD was recorded in 1999 and 2000 at three concerts which took place at the Herbst Theatre, the First Unitarian Church for our Pride Concert and at Mission High School in their Murphy Auditorium for our Mission ImPOPsible concert. The CD was released as part of our 20th Anniversary celebration.
The music was varied as always as we sang "Bohemian Rhasody" by Freddie Mercury, "Begin the Beguine" by Cole Porter, "Nina" by Noel Coward, "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" by Ashford & Simpson and choralography by the lovely and talented Kirk Johnson. We also performed "Dysfunctional Relationship" by our June and a couple of gay anthems - "You Are the Light" by Leo Arnaud and "I Open My Heart" by one of our favorite composers Sky Evergreen, who I wrote about in an earlier blog entry. Michael brought us a song in Tagalog called "Dahil Sa Iyo" (Because of You), which is a beautiful love song. We also sang "Erev Shel Shoshanim" (Evening of Roses) which is another love song. I really enjoyed singing in these songs in these concerts and glad that this recording was made so we could share our music with a wider audience.
Next time I will be writing about "Group Therapy."
Cheers and love, Michael Lucero
Hello to all my faithful readers. I am back from our break and I want to welcome all of the new members of the chorus who have joined us and been through our first rehearsal of "Street Requiem". I thought I would do something a little different for these next few weeks and write about some of the various recordings we have produced.
Our first recording was titled after our motto "Together in Harmony". Pat Parr was our Artistic Director and the music was recorded in November 1993 at First Unitarian Church in San Francisco and live at three different concerts from 1992 and 1993 and we released it in 1994 on CD and cassettes (you do remember cassettes). During the time when this was recorded the chorus was at 108 strong.
Here is what Pat wrote, in part, 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 we sang ranged 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. It is one of our goals to encourage and perform new music written by and for members of our community."
The five pieces that were written for us are: "Love Song" with music by Marty Stoddard who was the Assistant Conductor and lyrics by Leslie Steere, one of our lovely altos; "Passengers of Infinity" by Kirsten Nordeval; "I Am Here" written by Marty Cormier; "Reason to Sing" written by Rick Weaver, one of our lovely basses; and "Three Songs on Texts by Marguerite Radclyffe-Hall", written by our glorious accompanist Dwight Okamura. The three songs were: "At the Shrine of Aphrodite", "Hands and Lips", and "Take Me With You When You Fly".
One of things that I have always loved and been amazed by is the enormous amount of talented musicians that I have had the privilege and honor to have sung with and been friends with and shared time with and this is something I will always treasure and hold in my heart. So how about we do another recording for our 40th anniversary!
Next week I will write about our recording with Michael Carlson "Wish You Were Here".
Much love to you all, Michael Lucero, your lovely chorus historian.
Cole Thomason-Redus - Fall of 2010
After Stephanie Smith stepped down after the 2010 Pride concert, we were on the search again for an artistic director. We were grateful to have Cole Thomason-Redus on board as our Interim Director. Cole is a fifth-generation San Franciscan and is a sought-after conductor and educator of choral music and musical theater. In 2010 Cole was in his eleventh year as an Artist-in-Residence at Ruth Asawa School of the Arts. Cole has also been a vocalist and composer for the renowned choral ensemble, Schola Cantorum San Francisco. Many of his works written for the Schola have been recorded, broadcast on NPR and have been performed by the San Francisco Symphony Chorus.
Cole led us in our fall concert called "Dead White Men," which was a "mostly classical concert". We sang a Gregorian chant as well as pieces by J. S. Bach, Samuel Barber and Brahms. We also sang a Canadian folk song in French, and two Irish folk songs. We also sang music from Bizet's "Carmen" and Verdi's "La Traviata". And to round out the concert we sang music by Jonathan Larson from "Rent" and "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Freddie Mercury.
Cole also led us in our 4th Annual Christmas Crap-Array and we performed an outreach gig at a gay bar on Larkin Street and we also sang as guests of SFGMC in their 21st Annual Home for the Holidays concerts at the Castro Theater.
As with any change in leadership, our singing membership went down but our Board of Directors and others kept things going behind the scenes as they were extending the search for a new permanent Artistic Director. I will be writing about that AD, William Sauerland, in the next edition of our History Corner.
I would like to take a break from writing the blog until we come back full time when we start rehearsals again for our fall concert.
Cheers and love, Michael Lucero
Stephanie Lynne Smith, Part 2 - 2006-2010
Hello faithful readers, here is my continuing blog about Ms. Smith as she continued to grow the chorus both in membership as well as our musicianship and our willingness to try new things. We also had new accompanist and assistant artistic director in Michael Anthony Schuler. Another thing that happened in these years was that Stephanie married Dr. Kathleen Maguire, who was the AD of the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus so in a sense both choruses were their adult children and we all had to get along. Both choruses had great times at the Pride Concerts in this decade. We also performed in the SFGMC's Home for the Holidays concerts on Christmas Eve at the Castro Theatre and also traveled with SFGMC to Santa Rosa and Modesto as part of their outreach shows in December as well.
Starting with "Group Therapy" in 2005 we began expanding our musical chops as we performed full musicals written for us by June Bonacich and Jack Curtis Dubowsky who gave us "Halloween in the Castro: A Horror Opera." We also staged a one act operetta by Gilbert and Sullivan called "Trial by Jury" and of course we gayed it up to modernize it and make it our own.
The 32nd Annual Pride Concert in 2010 was Stephanie's last concert with us as AD and was titled fittingly enough "The Sound of Fabulous." This was our 30th anniversary season finale and was a fitting tribute to Stephanie as she was on her way to the next part of her life - the stage with her "Fifi and Fanny" shows. Stephanie has since moved to Portland, Oregon, with her wife, Jen Brown. She was artistic director of Confluence, the Willamette Valley LGBT Chorus, and she now has her "Ms. Smith Presents" adult performance classes in which she encourages her students to be the best they can be in their quest to be wonderful and fabulous performers. I guess once a teacher always a teacher and for me that best describes what she brought to LGCSF as she gave us the freedom to be the best we could be in our performances. I love you, Ms. Smith.
Next time I will write about our next Interim Director Cole Thomason-Redus.
In harmony and love, Michael Lucero
Stephanie Lynne Smith, Part 1 - 2002-2005
Stephanie Lynne Smith came to the chorus as an occasional accompanist in 2001 and 2002 with Michael Carlson and Jerry Foust. From this time, the chorus began to know her as a great pianist and we could see her potential of leadership. She is originally from Wichita Falls, Texas and received her Bachelor of Music in Piano performance from the University of Colorado at Boulder. She also did extensive study in Music Education. In Colorado, she was busy as the assistant choral director at Aurora Central High School and a choral, solo and conducting pianist at the university.
She moved to the Bay Area in 2001, where she received her Master of Music in Chamber Music Performance from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. While at the Conservatory, she played for such luminaries as Menahem Pressler and Emmanuel Ax.
When she became Artistic Director of LGCSF in fall of 2002, she was also the music teacher for K-8 grades at St. Lawrence O'Toole School in Oakland and pianist at Max's Opera Cafe.
We rehearsed at St. Francis Lutheran Church on Church Street across from Safeway. Our first show with Stephanie was a cabaret called "Full Moon of Love" at Cafe du Nord. I noticed on the program sheet that our special guests for this show were Coley Grundman and Barry Lloyd. Our pianist for this show was Vincent Peterson, who eventually became our Assistant Artistic Director. This cabaret was a fundraiser to send singers from the chorus to Sydney to sing in a mass choir for the Gay Games. Stephanie liked these cabaret shows since they were relatively easy to put together and showcased our solo singers to great effect. Eventually in 2004 Stephanie and the Artistic Advisory Committee came up with the idea for our Love Bites shows to be performed around Valentine's Day and to showcase our soloists, duets and trios again singing about the bitter flipside of love - in other words no schmaltzy love songs here.
Our first full concert with Stephanie was our Fall Concert at St. Francis Lutheran Church which became our home venue for our concerts at this time. At this first concert we were 33 strong and singers then and now are Yolanda, Kim and Lisa Vogt sopranos and Deb, Joan and Linda in alto section and yours truly. On December 24 we were again the guests of SFGMC on their annual Home for the Holidays concerts at the Castro Theatre. The year 2003 began with another cabaret at Cafe du Nord called "Role Playing", then an outreach performance at the 8th annual HIV Prevention Awards followed by our Spring Concert - Hope, and the 25th Annual Pride Concert, a fall concert and Home for the Holidays.
February 13, 2004, was the date of the very first Love Bites cabarets and was held at the Rainbow Room at the LGBT Community Center. This became our home for several following Love Bites shows. Next came our spring concert in April, another outreach performance at the SF Jewish Community Center, the Pride Concert and our big trip to the GALA Choruses Festival in beautiful Montreal, Quebec. After we got back from GALA, Stephanie kept us busy as we sang in the Oakland Pride Concert, another cabaret "Somewhere Over the Top," our fall concert and Home for the Holidays.
In 2005 we opened with "Love Still Bites" followed by our 25th Anniversary Concert which was held at the Brava Theatre. Then came the SF Pride Concert and the Oakland Pride Concert and then came "Group Therapy", an original musical composed for us by chorus member the wonderful June Bonacich. More to come on all of these concerts and shows when I return to writing about them individually.
Next time I will be writing more about Stephanie in 2006 through her last year with us 2010.
Cheers and love, Michael Lucero