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.
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.