1998 - Another Year of Change: Spice It Up!, 20th Annual Pride Concert and Classical Music for Cowards
I would like to say that as I have been taking this trip down memory lane for myself and my time in the chorus various memories come back to me that are important for me to share with you. First is that sometime in the late 1980s, Michael Clarke, one of our tenors, did most of the paperwork and research to get the tax exempt status that the chorus has enjoyed since that time. Michael also gave the chorus a generous monetary gift as part of his estate. And he was also a wonderful human being and I was glad to have sung with him.
Next if you can remember back to April, 1992. That was when the Rodney King riots were happening as the result of the verdict in the trial of the LA police officers who had beaten Rodney King. The riots in San Francisco were on the Thursday night before our Five Nights of Madness concerts when we were having our dress rehearsal. After the rehearsal was over, we accompanied each other to our cars just to make sure we were all safe. The concert scheduled for May 1 was cancelled as a precaution for us and our audience. Needless to say when we gathered on May 2 to perform our show, we had a sold out audience and we sang and danced our hearts out. That was a very emotional performance for all of us after all that had happened and we were able to give our audience an enjoyable concert and to make their hearts a little lighter.
Spice it Up! This concert was held on March 13 and 14 at the Cowell Theatre at Fort Mason. Our director, Trente Morant, gave us a wide variety of music to give to our audience. There was everything from the Gershwins to Sweet Honey in the Rock to our friend Sky Evergreen and music and arrangements by Trente. We had some special guests - Jill Togawa of Purple Moon Dance Project, Jackeline Rago of Crosspulse and Jonnie Pekelny. It was a challenge for us to learn and memorize this music but in the end we had fun and our audience did too - they were up and dancing.
20th Annual Pride Concert: High on Pride - 20 Years of Singing Proud. This Pride concert was held on June 26 at First Unitarian Church of SF. Our special guests were Qwire, Canberra, Australia's Gay and Lesbian Chorus, the SFGMC and the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band. Jose Sarria, the Widow Norton, First Empress of San Francisco, was the MC for the concert. This concert was special because we had the opportunity to spend time with the singers from Canberra before the concert. It was also special since this was Trente's last concert with us. He had to step down due to health reasons. The last song we sang in this concert was a song composed by Trente called Take Off and he and we did.
Classical Music for Cowards. This concert was conducted by our Interim Director Bill Ganz, who had worked with the chorus in various ways in the past. This was held on November 6 and 7 at MCC. Our special guest for this program was the Oberon Quartet who played Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 as the overture to the concert. We sang music by Handel, Schubert, Faure, Puccini, P. D. Q. Bach, Gilbert & Sullivan and Hail Holy Queen from Sister Act. Again this music was challenging to learn but we did and we all gained a new appreciation for this music and we learned not to be afraid of classical music.
The year 1997 was another year of change for the chorus. Our Artistic Director, Pat Parr, stepped down after the Pride concert after ten years directing this chorus. We all learned from Pat a lot of music, musical styles, we learned about ourselves through dealing with good times and bad times within the chorus. We all grew, we all changed, but the spirit of this chorus was there and is still here.
Our new Artistic Director was Trente Morant. He was the first African American director for the chorus. We were on to a new journey with Trente and we continued our learning about the chorus and about ourselves.
Carmina Burana. It had always been a dream of Pat's to conduct the chorus in a concert of Carmina Burana by Carl Orff. This concert was produced in conjunction with the Peninsula Ballet Theatre. This was another unique way to broaden our audience with our chorus and the audience of Peninsula Ballet Theatre. We did two shows, March 8 at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre and on March 9 at the Smithwick Theatre in Los Altos, CA. We also collaborated with Ragazzi, the Peninsula Boys CHorus and our soloists were Patty Wolf and Roderick Gomez. This was truly a beautiful production with the ballet company and the two choruses and soloists.
19th Annual Pride Concert: One Concert, Many Voices . This concert was held on June 27 at the Center for the Arts Theatre at Yerba Buena Gardens. This concert was Pat's last one leading the chorus. It was also a concert to remember the life of Sky Evergreen. Sky was a local jazz pianist, playing with Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, Linda Hopkins, Jules Broussard and his own trio. In the 1980s he became a fixture on the local cabaret scene. Sky was also a songwriter and arranger and the chorus sang four songs arranged by Sky - Lover Come Back to Me, For All We know, How Long Has This Been Going On and It Don't Mean a Thing. Also on this evening was a Lifetime Commitment Ceremony of two of our biggest supporters, John Dobson and R. Guy McGinnis. State Assemblywoman Carole Migden officiated. Remember this was way before gay marriage.
Our guests on this Pride concert were Lisa Gray as host, SFGMC, San Francisco Winds of Freedom, Equal Voices, and the South Coast Chorale from Long Beach, CA. All in all this quite a fitting tribute to Pat Parr and Sky Evergreen.
Love Is In The Air.This was the first concert with our new Artistic Director, Trente Morant. This was held at MCC on November 14 and 15. Here is just a bit of Trente's resume - at the time he was also the Artistic Director of the Oakland Youth Chorus. He also toured the country for five years as Performer-Lecturer specializing in music from the Harlem Renaissance. Needless to say we learned a lot of new things from the start, including rhythm and a new style. This concert featured music from a wide spectrum of composers - George Gershwin, Duke Ellington, Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers, Stephen Sondheim and our own Sky Evergreen.
18th Annual Pride Concert. This Pride concert took place on June 28 at Herbst Theatre. It was hosted by Donna Sachet, Empress XXX, and now one of the hosts for the TV broadcast of the San Francisco Pride Parade. The concert featured us with our guest artists SFGMC, San Francisco Winds of Freedom, VOICES: Bar Area Lesbian Choral Ensemble and we had pre-show entertainment by Equal Voices, a one year old chorus directed by a former member of LGCSF, Rick Weaver. We started the show with a Sweet Sixteen Birthday Fantasy featuring Donna Sachet to mark our 16th season. This was another great concert of cooperation with the other performing groups singing and playing wonderful music and the kickoff to Pride Weekend 1996.
GALA Festival V. This GALA Festival was held in Tampa, Florida, in July and saw an explosion in the growth of the event with 82 choruses performing during the week and the format of the Festival continuing to evolve.
Opera Grand & Not So Grand. This concert was presented on November 1 & 2 at MCC Eureka Street. Our special guests for this concert were Jose Sarria - The Widow Norton, the Derivative Duo from Seattle, and Ms. Patty Wolfe. This was a concert of favorite opera choruses from many well known operas, such as Lucia di Lammermoor, Nabucco, Carmen, Cavalleria Rusticana, La Traviata, Il Trovatore and Die Fledermaus. It was fun and also challenging to learn this wonderful music of all the great composers.
Sing-Along Sound of Music. Did you always want to be Maria? Captain Von Trapp? The Mother Superior? The Baroness? The Lonely Goatherd? Well now is your chance to dress up, "Climb Every Mountain" and win a prize for your efforts. We presented this show on December 5 at MCC and of course we were dressed as our favorite person from the movie. Lots of fun for us and our audience. The hills were alive with the Sound of Music on that night.
A Tribute to the Music of Elton John. This was our chorus' way to celebrate the music of one of our gay heroes, Elton John. We presented this on March 22 and 23 at the Cowell Theatre at Fort Mason. Our rehearsals leading up to the concert were a lot of fun learning the songs of Elton and putting our twist on them. At our retreat we spent time working on costumes, including decorating our own outsize glasses. This was kind of our first multimedia concert. As background for the medley of Friends and Your Song were photos of the chorus at the retreat. During Candle in the Wind were projected various images of Marilyn Monroe. The beginning of Act II featured our wonderful accompanist, Dwight Okamura, playing Funeral for a Friend. This was another concert that was great fun for us and for our audiences.
First I would like to let you know about one of our outreach programs that LGCSF took part in on several occasions. Members of the chorus would accompany Jose Sarria, the self-proclaimed Widow Norton, to Cypress Lawn Cemetery to visit the grave of Emperor Norton. Jose Sarria had always been one of the biggest supporters of LGCSF. This "pilgrimage to Colma" took place annually on the Sunday morning following the coronation of the newly elected Empress and Emperor of San Francisco. LGCSF and the Freedom Band would perform at this event, and it was always a hoot being with the drag queens who made up the courts of several cities from around the country. Although Jose Sarria died in 2013, and LGCSF has not always been present for the Sunday morning event, the Annual Cemetery Pilgrimage continues, and the next one is scheduled for February 25, 2018. See the Imperial Council's events page for information.
Back to 1995: In our 15th season brochure, our Artistic Director Pat Parr wrote "as the oldest continuing mixed gay chorus in the world, we continue to celebrate the life, energy, and strength of our community in our commitment to all our endeavors: our concerts, charitable fund-raisers, outreach programs, and performances at many San Francisco events." Following is what we presented in 1995:
A Grand Night for Singing. The 100th birthdays of Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II was the occasion for this fully staged and choreographed production. We sang songs like Blue Moon, Where or When, I Wish I Were in Late Again, and music from South Pacific, Carousel, The King and I and Oklahoma. We had two performances in March at the Cowell Theatre at Fort Mason and a special benefit performance in April for the Genard AIDS Foundation at the Hofman Theatre in Walnut Creek.
The 17th Annual Pride Concert. On June 16 at the Herbst Theatre, we presented the Annual Pride Concert. Our guests were the Lesbian and Gay Chorus of Washington, DC, San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus, and the San Francisco Winds of Freedom. Our emcee was a local gay comedian, Danny Williams (1952-2014; see Bay Area Reporter obituary). This was another wonderful evening of sharing the stage with great singers and musicians, especially the women and men of the mixed lesbian and gay chorus of Washington, D.C. (which apparently stopped operating in 2010). It was fun to spend time with them prior to the concert at rehearsal and socially.
Music by Women Composers. As part of our mission to present music by women composers, we presented two concerts in November, one in Oakland and the second in San Francisco. We sang music by, among others, Libby Larsen, Alice Parker, Ysaye M. Barnwell, Holly Near and Naomi Judd. This was the first concert we produced that featured orchestral accompaniment, and it was a wonderful two evenings of beautiful and exciting music.
You will see that 1994 was another busy year for the chorus. Our first concert, It's About Love!, was held March 25 and 26 at the Cowell Theatre at Fort Mason. We sang songs about Family, Friends and Lovers which included a medley constructed by Pat Parr called "I'm Over You Now So Get Lost." We had lots of fun with this concert with our costumes, makeup and choreography.
This was also the year of our first recording on CD and cassette tape (you do remember tapes) called "Together in Harmony." We actually recorded it the past November 1993 and it also included live recordings of music from past concerts.
Next for us was a trip on April 16 to Seattle to sing with the Seattle Lesbian and Gay Chorus and Vancouver Lesbian and Gay Choir in a show called "Boys & Girls with Stories." What a great time we had meeting and performing with these two choruses. All three choruses opened the concert with "We Are Everywhere." Then we sang a selection of songs from It's About Love! For the second half the Seattle chorus sang Boys & Girls With Stories.
Next was the 16th Annual Pride Concert held June 17 at Center for the Arts Theatre at Yerba Buena Gardens. Our guests for this were SFGMC and our friends from Seattle, the Seattle Lesbian and Gay Chorus. This year also marked Gay Games IV and Stonewall 25. What a history we all share.
Next for us was a special night. We were asked to sing at the 13th Annual PFLAG International Conference called Bridges to Equality.
Our final concert of the year was It's About Music! an evening of Classical Choral Music held on October 21 at First Congregational Church of Oakland and October 22 at Trinity Episcopal Church, SF. Among the music we sang was the Hymn to St. Cecilia by Benjamin Britten, Gloria by Francis Poulenc and Alleluia by Randall Thompson. What glorious music we sang and our audience loved us.
Our first concert of 1993 was FANTASIES: FAIRY TALES CAN COME TRUE. It was held on March 5 & 6 at Cowell Theatre at Fort Mason. This concert came about as a gathering of ideas from members of the chorus and matching these ideas with appropriate music, rehearsing, staging and choreography and putting it together with lights, scenery, and a band. The first act was based on childhood fantasies and the second was about more adult fantasies. With help from the Lamplighters Music Theatre, we were able to have our scenery and we had the wonderful Gregg Tallman as stage director and Gene Russo as choreographer. The concert began with Be Our Guest and ended with Make Our Garden Grow (from the operetta "Candide" by Leonard Bernstein). All the music was memorized and with all of our hard work this was a great success. Our out of town retreat for this concert was a hoot.
Next for us was the 15TH ANNUAL PRIDE CONCERT held on June 25 at the Herbst Theatre. Sharing the stage with us were SFGMC, Winds of Freedom, VOICES: Bay Area Lesbian Choral Ensemble and the Rhythm Method. Our hosts were the beautiful Gail Wilson and the always fabulous Jose Sarria, the Widow Norton, First Empress of San Francisco.
Our fall concert, LESBIAN & GAY COMPOSERS, was held at the First Unitarian Church of San Francisco. It has always been part of the mission of the chorus to feature and promote the music of lesbian and gay composers. Several of the pieces we performed in this concert were written by members of the chorus. It was a pleasure and honor to sing these pieces and give them to our audience.
Our sassy octet, Menage, presented their holiday show called HOLIDAY ISSUES on December 11 at the Metropolitan Community Church of San Francisco, on Eureka Street in the Castro. All in all this was another good year for us and our audiences.
For our first concerts of 1992 we presented Five Years of Madness which was held May 1 & 2 at First Congregational Church of San Francisco. It was the idea of our Artistic Director, Pat Parr, to present the best of our past five years of production concerts. He also wanted the audience to see the backstage madness the chorus goes through to put on a concert like this. There were several screens onstage with costumes and props behind each one and we would go to a certain screen to change costumes or get props and then sing songs from that concert. They represented 1987 - LGCSF Rides Again, 1988 - LGCSF Goes to the Movies, 1989 - LGCSF Goes to Broadway, 1990 - Radio Daze and 1991 - Bobby Sox to Beatles. This was pure entertainment for our audience and also a more serious expression of the joys of being Lesbians and Gay Men.
Next for us was the 14th Annual Pride Concert, held on June 26 at First Congo. This concert featured us, the Gay Asian Pacific Alliance Chorus, SF Winds of Freedom, Vocal Minority, Silicon Gay Men's Chorus, Voices: Bay Area Lesbian Choral Ensemble, and we all honored the 10th Anniversary of the Golden Gate Men's Chorus.
Next, we all traveled by Continental Airlines from SFO to Denver to perform at GALA Festival IV, held June 28 - July 4 at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. We arrived in Denver on June 27 and on Sunday, June 28, marched in the Denver Pride Parade along with all the choruses who were there that day. I will always remember the cheers from the people along the parade route and their tears and our tears as well because of the love we were all feeling during the parade. Also at that time Colorado was getting ready to vote on the infamous Proposition 2 which was an anti-LGBT bill that the Colorado Legislature wanted to pass.
That night was the festival's Opening Ceremonies, presented by all the local Denver area choruses. Then began the week of rehearsals and going to see as many GALA choruses as we could get to. Each chorus did back-to-back performances, one in Buell Theatre and the other in Boettcher Theatre. Our finale for our performances was Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat made famous by Carmen Miranda in the musical The Gang's All Here and featuring the Banana Ballet. Two of our members drove with the hat and blow up bananas that we used as props for this. Miss Beth Yates sang the song and my partner, Phil Hernandez, was Beth's dresser. He had her dress and shoes ready for her to change into. After we finished our first performance we dashed to the other theatre and got ready to do it again. Lots of work but also lots of fun. With our version of the Banana Ballet we caused some controversy among the lesbian choruses because the blow up bananas we used were seen as phallic symbols even though there were women and men dancers of the chorus with the bananas. Oh well, certainly we never thought the bananas would be perceived in this manner. Check out the film clip of this on Youtube. Look up Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat. What a wonderful week of music and getting to meet people from other choruses and making new friendships. The week was capped off by a performance by the Flirtations and an evening of their wonderful harmonies and songs.
Returning to the Bay Area, our next performance was Classics of Nature, our classical concert. There were two performances, one held October 23 at First Unitarian Church of Oakland and October 24 at MCC, San Francisco. We did music by J. Brahms, Antonio Scandello, Josquin des Pres, Paul Hindemith, Samuel Barber, and Mark Blitzstein. This was our chance to show off our classical repertoire and to concentrate on the beautiful music we can make together. This was the debut of our Assistant Artistic Director, Marty Stoddard, who directed two of the pieces we sang.
As you see this was another busy year for the chorus, one in which we grew in our style and our musicality and our sense of accomplishment for all the music we tackled.
First for us in 1991 was the 13th Annual Pride Concert. This was held on June 28 at our favorite, First Congo. Again we were the producers of this concert. This concert was dedicated to Robin Kay our founding director. The concert featured us, Voices: Bay Area Lesbian Ensemble, Silicon Valley Gay Men's Chorus, Golden Gate Men's Chorus, The Glide Ensemble, Vocal Minority and Menage. Hank Plante, anchorman and reporter for KPIX Channel 5 News, was the evening's emcee.
From our program - "As producers of this concert it has been the goal to include representation by different performing groups from the Lesbian/Gay community each year. The diversity in membership, styles and sizes of the groups performing is possibly the greatest we've ever put together. All artists tonight have one thing in common - the dedication and hard work from each member of each organization necessary to bring the music to life. It is this dedication that brings the meaning of PRIDE to us as musicians and being truly Together in Harmony."
Earlier in the year at the 1991 Cable Car Awards LGCSF was awarded Outstanding Concert for our 12th Annual Pride Concert and Outstanding Performing Group - Menage. Hooray for us!!
Next for us was Bobby Sox to Beatles. This was presented at Cowell Theatre at Fort Mason on October 11 and 12. It featured music from the fifties and sixties. We got to wear our bobby sox and poodle skirts and our tie dye shirts and jeans. One of the highlights was an Elvis medley with four different Elvises. We went from Graduation Day at the end of the first act into We Shall Overcome at the beginning of the second act as we marched in with protest signs. Again we had lots of fun, after lots of hard work and dedication to memorizing all of the music, and so did the audience. Both nights were sold out and they were up on their feet and dancing and singing along.
One thing I would like to let you all know about the chorus at this time. We had both a Board of Directors which included fifteen members and an Advisory Board which consisted of people from the community to help us with advertising, outreach and fundraising. Also we had about 90 singers for this concert so we needed a big theatre and stage for us all. I was getting goosebumps reading through the list of names. In the bass section alone there were 29 of us. Our out of town weekend retreat where we rehearsed the show and bonded and shared meals and worked on costumes together was lots of fun.
Our final concert for 1991 was A Not So Silent Night. This was held on December 7 at the First Unitarian Church and December 8 at First Congo. We shared the stage with the San Francisco Winds of Freedom, the concert band of the Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band and our award winning octet, Menage. We all shared some beautiful and fun holiday season with our audience.
Congratulations to the chorus! At the 1990 Cable Car Awards the chorus won the award for our Broadway show of last October.
Our first concert of 1990 was called Brahms and Bernstein featuring the music of these two composers. The first of the two concerts was on April 27 at Old First Church on Van Ness in San Francisco as part of their concert series. The second was on April 28 at the First Congregational Church in Oakland. My favorite part of this concert was singing the Chichester Psalms by Leonard.
Next up was the 12th Annual Pride Concert and was our big 10th Anniversary Concert. Our special guests were SFGMC, the SF Gay Freedom Marching Band, Vocal Minority, which was originally an offshoot of LGCSF and alumni of LGCSF. The date was June 22 at First Congregational Church in San Francisco or as we affectionately called it "First Congo." Our first director, Robin Kay, was on hand as guest conductor. We introduced our newest small group "Naugahyde and the Dinettes, which was four of our twisted sisters. As always this Pride Concert was lots of fun for us and our audience and it was great to sing with our alumni once again.
Next up was our big production show "Radio Daze" held September 28 & 29 and October 13 at the Cowell Theatre at Fort Mason. The show featured music of the thirties and forties and was presented as a live radio broadcast which began with the famous War of the Worlds broadcast which was originally done by Orson Welles and company. Throughout the show we presented radio commercials of the time. Pat Parr worked with Gene Russo, our choreographer, and Roger Scroggs, stage director and script coordinator. This show was lots of hard work memorizing all of the music, learning dance and stage moves, but all the hard work paid off big time for us and our audience. We ended the night with "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree with Anyone Else But Me."
Finally, we ended the year as guests of SFGMC in their holiday show "A Classic Tex-Mex Holiday." Lots of fun as always singing with SFGMC.
Our Own Kind of Music, Pride, GALA Festival III, You and the Night and the Music, kickoff of our Tenth Anniversary Season, and Now Sing with Hearts Aglow.
A member of the chorus last Thursday told me that 1989 is his favorite year - Madonna and company. This was another busy year for the chorus. Our spring concert, Our Own Kind of Music, was the first we had done featuring music by living lesbian and gay composers, including two songs by two of our members and music by our Assistant Director, Marty Stoddard. The music we sang was exciting and challenging.
Next up on June 23 at Mission High School was the Pride Concert - a GALA Chorus Preview. This featured all of the Northern California gay and lesbian choruses - SFGMC, LGCSF, Golden Gate Men's Chorus, Silicon Valley Gay Men's Chorus, Sacramento Men's Chorus, Sacramento Women's Chorus, Santa Cruz Men's Chorus and VOICES: Bay Area Lesbian Choral Ensemble. This concert gave all of these choruses a chance to preview what they would be singing at the GALA Festival III in Seattle.
This was my first GALA Festival and what an eye opener it was. In July, we all were on our plane to Seattle for the GALA Festival III. It was held on the University of Washington campus and we all stayed in the dorms. What a great way to meet singers from other choruses in the hallways and at breakfast in the cafeteria. There were 43 choruses there to perform over a week of concerts in Meany Hall, the university's concert hall. We decided that we would show our audience of singers the San Francisco attitude. We were dressed to the nines - long gowns and dresses and tuxedos. When the curtain came up we got a standing ovation before even singing a note. One of the pieces we sang was Three Charms from Shakespeare by Conrad Susa. The last movement, "Fairie's Lullaby" from Midsummer Night's Dream featured a bombastic entrance by one of our basses as Oberon on a motorcycle as he cursed and cast a spell on the fairies. One other highlight of this GALA was singing in the Festival SATB chorus which was conducted by Vance George, the director at that time of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus. We all learned a lot from him in our rehearsals. After the Closing Ceremonies we all stood outside the theatre in the square and sang along with Holly Near that she had written for all of us. What a way to get energized by hearing all of these choruses and coming back to San Francisco with all sorts of artistic ideas.
Next up for us was You and the Night and the Music, an evening of cabaret to benefit LGCSF. Marga Gomez was the mistress of ceremonies and featured an array of local cabaret singers, including our own Morgan Aiken, Scott Johnston and Menage. This was held in the fabulous Venetian Room of the Fairmont Hotel. What a fun night that was getting all dressed up again.
Next was the kickoff concert of our tenth season which was called Broadway, Brahms & Bernstein and a Birthday. This concert was a Broadway blockbuster. Our special guest was Lynda Bergren. We were once singing and dancing to these Broadway melodies. One of the highlights was a Duets Medley which featured twelve duets from various musicals. The big finale was Hello Dolly with Lynda as Dolly. This was a lot of fun for us and for our audience.
To finish out the year we were once again the guests of SFGMC in their Now Sing With Hearts Aglow holiday concert at the Herbst Theatre. One of the pieces we sang with SFGMC was John Rutter's "Gloria."
joined the Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco in August of 1984, after seeing them sing in the Pride Concert the previous June and their director, Matt O'Grady, announced that if anyone in the audience wanted to join the chorus that auditions would be coming up so he joined. During his time in the chorus he has always sang in the bass section. He has served as Music Librarian, on the Production Committee, the Artistic Advisory Committee, as a bass section leader, as the GALA liaison and currently as chorus historian. He is glad to create this blog for the chorus to get the history out to anyone who looks at our website.