Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
The San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus under the direction of Dr. Timothy Seelig created a magnificent event called Tales of Our Cities: Our Lives, Our Heroes along with the superb Rainbow Symphony Orchestra at Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall on April 14th. The honored Armistead Maupin, who chronicled the magical world of San Francisco's "out" community and was the guest speaker.
The program started with all 300 men impressively singing James Eakin III's "Behold the Gate." This was followed by Stephen Sondheim's "Sunday" from Sunday in the Park with George, impressively sung by the choral group. Armistead Maupin was brought to stage center and he proceeded to tell how he ended up in this city by the bay. (It was between Buffalo and San Francisco and he was glad he chose the latter.) Next was David Maddux and Armistead Maupin's "Michael's Letter to Mama," in which the lead character pens a moving coming out for his parents after discovering their involvement with the anti-gay group "Save Our Children." This was emotionally sung by Andrew Caldwell.
The chorus then did selections from Robert Seeley and Philip Littel's A Naked Man which premiere in July 1996. This was a choral work about gay men, their lives, memories, and feelings of accepting themselves as gay. All of the stories were weaved together in A Naked Man in anthems ranging from gospel and country-western to Gregorian chant and musical theatre. The unforgettable choral work was heartrending, moving, and spirited. One of the highlights in this piece was the song "Dance on Your Grave" which was pulsating, with the members doing various body movements. Soloists Eric Colton, Mark Para, Oky Sulistio, Joe Bissell, Rylan Carpena, Steve Huffines, and Phillip Whitely were great assets to the work with their fine vocal cords.
After an intermission the Rainbow Symphony did a rousing "Festive Overture in A Major" by Dmitri Shostakovich. Following this was the energetic Latin-style "Ritmo" by Dan Davison. It was melodic and fun with Spanish lyrics, hand claps, finger snaps, and other body percussion.
The closing choral work of the evening featured selections from Andrew Lippa's I Am Harvey Milk which was premiered at the Nourse Theatre in 2013. The oratorio presents the life and legacy of Supervisor Harvey Milk with vivid intensity. One of the highlights of that work was "Friday Night in the Castro" which remembers the energy of the gay life meccas of the 1970s before the specter of AIDS decimated the population of young gay men and much of the nightlife of that time. It was sung by San Francisco's own "village people" along with the complete chorus.
The performance was a beautiful, though-provoking evening of superb choral work by the San Francisco Gay Men's chorus under the direction Ted Seelig.
San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus performed Tales Of Our City: Our Lives, Our Heroes April 14-15, 2016, at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco.