A Message form the Executive Director

It’s that time of year, when the world falls in love. Every song you hear seems to say, Merry Christmas. So says my favorite holiday caroler Karen Carpenter with her alto sublime, in three-quarter time.

Without a doubt, we are in the marvelous midst of the holiday season. For music lovers like us, it’s like a twinkling string of wonderful sounds from the classics of old to the merriment of today. Yes, we need a little Christmas, right this very minute! So, thank you for joining with us in this, our 32nd year of holiday shows. We love to sing for you and we hope you leave with a heart full of happiness, a festive step to your stride and a smile of peace and joy on your face.

We have enjoyed a magical year in 2017. For those of you who know us well, our all-volunteer singers continued on their mission of changing lives one voice at a time. Most recently, we performed as part of the opening ceremonies of San Diego’s biggest civic event December Nights before thousands of our neighbors and friends. The same night, we performed for the Mama’s Kitchen World AIDS Day, this time before a Tree of Life in memory of those we’ve lost. From there, we took Jingle on the road for our second sold-out performance at Sycuan Casino, making new friends and fans in all parts of the county.

Earlier this year, our nationally acclaimed Chamber Chorale made its Lincoln Center debut with our co-commission of the landmark Tyler’s Suite. With music directed by Wicked’s Stephen Schwartz, the piece conveys an anti-bullying message through the tragic story of gay music student Tyler Clementi’s life and loss. Back at home, the masterworks ensemble followed up with its Faith & Freedom concert series to standing-room only audiences at St. David’s Episcopal Church, St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral and a very special audience of military veterans at Sycuan.

We have been especially excited this year about the launch of our newest youth outreach program, the musical retelling of the award-winning children’s book A Peacock Among Pigeons. Working in partnership with the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus and Broadway composer John Bucchino, we are co-commissioning this wonderful book with an anti-bullying message of celebrating what makes us each different—including those of us with especially colorful feathers! San Diego’s own noted artist Clarione Gutierrez illustrated the book written by Tyler Curry. If you are able to donate toward this project, we guarantee you it will make a world of difference in many young lives.

As we enter into 2018, we have much to look forward to, both musically and within our community. Mark your calendars now for our spring show Movie Night (April 21 & 22), our Hollywood extravaganza in tribute to cinematic masterpieces from Selma’s “Glory” and La La Land’s “Another Day of Sun” to everyone’s favorites from James Bond, Willy Wonka and white-suited disco king with a fever for Saturday nights! We see lots of wigs, makeup and costume changes in our future!

I’d like to close by wishing you and your family the most wonderful and holly-jolliest of holidays. Thank you for all of the love and support you give to each one of us. We love singing for you and we hope you keep coming back to see us again and again!

Bob Lehman Executive Director, San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus


“Christmas on Our Own”

New Holiday Hit Song Premieres at Jingle

Words began to flow from the fingertips of DC James at a very early age. As a third grader, he discovered his lyrical talent as he penned his first poem for a school assignment.

But it wasn’t until ten years later when he bought a friend’s $60 acoustic guitar that James began to write songs. And it wasn’t just any song he was looking to write. At the time, he was a nineteen-year-old reeling from his first, crushing heartache and those guitar strings were just the right valve to release the emotions welling deep inside himself.

“Writing about being heartbroken is every songwriter’s story,” said the Canadian who transplanted to San Diego last year. “My friend taught me four chords and I was off and writing.”

Today, with thirteen years and hundreds of songs under his belt, James is singing a new tune. This time, he’s singing about love. His new hit song “Christmas on Our Own” is dedicated to the man he eventually married last year and, like a script from a Hallmark Christmas movie, he married the same man who was the subject of that very first break-up song. Instead of heartache, James now musically imagines spending the holiday with that special someone he “just might wanna ho ho hold” all Christmas long.

“Christmas on Our Own” has been gaining popularity since its release on iTunes and Spotify last month, but bringing it to the stage was a project unto itself. James worked with San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus Artistic Director RC Haus and collaborated with acclaimed music arranger Jerome Kurtenbach to set his music to men’s choral vocals with accompanying musical score. (Click Here to Listen to Christmas On Your Own)

“I’ve been humming this song all year long. I knew if I couldn’t get it out of my head, then others might love it too,” chuckled James who joined the Chorus this year. “Hearing the guys rehearsing it now is so surreal. But I love it, and I love hearing the guys say they love it too.”

This year’s Jingle concerts will showcase the world premiere of the new choral arrangement featuring James singing lead with nearly 200 SDGMC vocalists and the Chaz Cabrera JazzKatz Orchestra.

“Joining the Chorus has been a great experience and a great support system. I love what it stands for and the people are amazing,” noted James. “I feel like this is a place where I can be myself—where people don’t judge you, they celebrate you.”

You can find out more about DC James and listen to “Christmas on Our Own” at www.dcjamesofficial.com.


SDGMC’s “Jingle Bus Cruise” to Sycuan

by Timoth Rawles, SDGLN.com

Now there is really no excuse not see the spectacular San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus musical event called “Jingle.”

For those who don’t drive, or simply want to relax on the way to the show, there will be a shuttle service available from Urban Mo’s to the Sycuan performance on December 2.

“Our Jingle show is one of San Diego’s most popular holiday traditions with multiple sold-out shows,” says Executive Director Bob Lehman.

Called the “Jingle Bus Cruise,” tickets are just $25 — the cheapest way to go (includes  Jingle ticket, row 12/13 center for the 6:30 p.m. show plus travel via Sycuan Casino shuttle service). 

“When you join the Chorus, you join more than 200 friends who share a mission to change lives through music,” Lehman explains. “We are about so much more than just putting on a show. We are one big family who cares about our community and each other.”

The “Jingle Bus Cruise,” will start loading up at 4 pm at Urban Mo’s and leave at 5 pm sharp.

After the hour-long concert, the bus will not leave the casino until 9 pm which gives you some time to try your luck on the gaming floor or grab a bite to eat.

You’ll arrive back at Mo’s before 10 pm just in time for all the Saturday night fun. The venue is open to people 21+ years of age.

Already have your Sycuan Tickets and just want to ride with us. Click on the free ticket to reserve your space on the JINGLE Bus Cruise.

Jingle Live at Sycuan is on Saturday, Dec 2 at 6:30 for the bus service. There is another performance at Sycuan at 9 pm. 

Other performances of Jingle Live at Balboa Theatre are on Saturday, December 9 at 8 pm & Sunday, December 10 at 3 pm.


SDGMC Announces New Accompanist

We are thrilled to announce the selection of our new Principal Accompanist Kevin Cavanaugh who brings to SDGMC more than 20 years of experience as a musician, vocalist and entertainer. He will perform at our upcoming holiday shows JINGLE and for the SDGMC Chamber Chorale’s fall concert series FAITH & FREEDOM.

Cavanaugh has played piano and sung his repertoire of “Songs from Sinatra To The Smiths” throughout Southern California. His ’60s retro-lounge group, Blue Velvet, appeared on the premiere episode of NBC‘s hit show America’s Got Talent.

A singer/songwriter as well, Cavanaugh has released his original music on iTunes including “Astronauts” from his upcoming collection “Hillbilly.” This compilation, which features original songs about growing up LGBTQ, will be released in October 2017.

Cavanaugh continues to entertain at local venues including his solo act at the Turf Supper Club in Golden Hill, with Blue Velvet and previously at Martinis Above Fourth Table + Stage and The Caliph. In addition, Cavanaugh is music director for Choral Club of San Diego and choir director for The Ramona United Methodist Church.

Please join us in welcoming him to our musical family!


SDGMC Names Stepping Stone as Community Outreach Partner.

We are happy to announce Stepping Stone San Diego as this summer’s SDGMC Community Outreach Partner. During each concert season, SDGMC partners with a local organization that is making great things happen.

For more than 40 years, Stepping Stone has been changing lives as one of the few LGBTQ-focused recovery programs in the nation. The staff and residents of Stepping Stone will be joining SDGMC at its summer show DIVAS (tickets at SDGMC.org) on July 29 & 30 at the Balboa Theatre – San Diego. For more information about Stepping Stone please see the accompanying preview story from our concert playbill.

Walking Miracles

 

It all started in 1976 with a couch and a couple of gay men opening their home to friends who needed help in healing from addiction.

Today, nearly 41 years later, those first acts of kindness have blossomed to become Stepping Stone of San Diego—a beacon of hope as one of the nation’s only alcohol and drug recovery programs specifically for the LGBTQ community. Based in City Heights, Stepping Stone serves more than 70 people at any given time including 31 main facility residents plus 15 people at its Hillcrest sober-living residence, program alumni and a home just for women.

“It’s still very important for people to come to a place where they feel safe with their sexuality or their HIV status,” said Stepping Stone Executive Director Cheryl Houk who has helped run the agency for 18 years. “We come with a higher rate of addiction because of issues related to sexuality, HIV status and childhood trauma. The people who come to us often feel shamed at other programs.”

That’s not the case at Stepping Stone. Entering through its golden stucco and hewn stone entry, visitors and residents alike are greeted by a palpable excitement in the air. For it’s here, crisscrossing the cool inner courtyard, that people are re-engaging with life. For many, it’s a far cry from when they first entered the facility.

“We’ve taken people off the streets who are walking miracles today,” noted Houk. “Addiction is a really hard thing to beat and it takes everything we have. So, we create a family of support for them that they know they can come back to and they know it’s safe.”

As noted by Houk, Stepping Stone has the particular skillset of helping people in recovery who are also living with HIV/AIDS. In fact, it was during the worst parts of the AIDS Crisis that Stepping Stone served on the front lines providing care to the dying in the face of fear and homophobia.

According to Program Manager/HIV Specialist Chris Mueller, another major difference in Stepping Stone’s approach is that people with addiction, mental health or HIV challenges are never turned away for financial reasons. This is thanks to funding from sources such as the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program and the County of San Diego.

“Many people are either homeless, on the verge of being homeless or their families want to be rid of them,” explained Mueller. “People come into our program full of fears and uncertainty about HIV. By the time they leave here, they’re on medications, undetectable and confident.”

The fact that no one is turned away from Stepping Stone is unique, important, lifesaving and a source of pride to the Stepping Stone family. Even people waiting to move into the residence begin receiving services immediately.

“We have an open door policy. Everyone is welcome here,” said Mueller. “People leave, they may relapse, but they are always welcome.”


Urgent Action Alert: Help Preserve City of San Diego Arts and Culture Funding

URGENT–We Need Your Help!  San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus Funding Slashed Thirty-four Percent!

San Diego has long prided itself on its vibrant arts community including SDGMC’s 32 years of performing. Despite receiving a near perfect score and the HIGHEST RATING possible from the City, SDGMC’s funding is being cut by 34%. This will have a direct impact on not only our Chorus and the many other arts and culture organizations in San Diego, but also the countless people who benefit from them. 

Please DONATE to SDGMC TODAY. Help us continue our community outreach, musical programs, youth outreach and support of the LGBT performing arts community.


Thirty Miles and Worlds Apart

It’s Monday night and the 170 singers of the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus have gathered on an unseasonably cool Hillcrest evening to rehearse for its upcoming Broadway Now show. There’s singing,
dancing and even a TV news crew stopping by to film the group for an upcoming segment.

Just 30 miles to the south, across the border and alongside Camino a Valle Redondo in Tijuana, the evening sun casts its rays on an entirely different scene at Albergue Las Memorias, the clinic serving as Tijuana’s de facto AIDS hospice. Some of the region’s most seriously ill people call this sparsely furnished, cinder-block constructed building their home.

Although seemingly worlds apart, the two communities have come together as part of the Chorus’ Outreach Partner program which seeks to raise awareness of people and groups doing extraordinary good in our community.

“We’ve all seen the devastation brought on by AIDS. Mix it with poverty, homelessness and addiction and it’s a powder keg waiting to explode,” said Executive Director Bob Lehman. “What this clinic is doing is just short of a miracle.”

Residents are people who have lived on the streets for a good part of their lives. The clinic provides them with food, clothes, a bed to sleep in, transportation to and from doctor’s offices and the medication they need for HIV and other illnesses. This is a “working together” community. There is no nurse or doctor on site here. It’s just the residents taking care of each other.

“I’ve seen people be nearly dead and today I see them walking around and being part of the community and being so grateful for Las Memorias,” said Reverend Jerri Handy, a missionary who works at the clinic. “The love softens hearts and changes lives.”

Members of the Chorus and the community will be collecting “wish list” items for the clinic in the weeks leading up to the April 22 & 23 Broadway Now show dates. Items needed include cleaning supplies, personal care items and over-the-counter medical and wound care supplies. Anyone wishing to donate items may drop them off during Chorus rehearsal on Monday nights from 7 to 10 p.m. at the University Christian Church at 3900 Cleveland Avenue in Hillcrest.


“Over the Rainbow”

[Editor’s Note: The next few blogs will concentrate on songs chosen for our upcoming Americana concert. The San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus’ acclaimed Chamber Chorale brings to life America’s collective musical ancestry with the final performance of Americana today, Sunday, March 5 at 7 p.m. as part of the highly acclaimed Music Series of the First United Methodist Church of San Diego. Tickets at SDGMC.org or at the door.]

“Over the Rainbow”
1939

Few 17-year-old girls could belt out a ballad like Judy Garland. So it was sheer Hollywood magic when she donned her gingham blue apron dress for The Wizard of Oz and imagined life “Over the Rainbow” where troubles melt like lemon drops. Composed by Harold Arlen (“Get Happy,” “Stormy Weather”) with lyrics by E.Y Harburg (“April in Paris”), the song’s wistful longing and swelling chorus has earned it the number one spot on the “Songs of the Century” chart compiled by the Recording Industry Association of America and the National Endowment for the Arts. It also won the Academy Award for best song, although The Wizard of Oz lost for best picture to Gone with the Wind.

Starting around World War II, the song became interwoven with the culture of the emerging gay community with “friends of Dorothy” coming together to find that place where bluebirds fly. Today, “Over the Rainbow” remains an anthem of the LGBT community, most recently sung by the Chorus during the massive vigils following the murder of 49 people at the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando.


“Shenadoah”

[Editor’s Note: The next few blogs will concentrate on songs chosen for our upcoming Americana concert. The San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus’ acclaimed Chamber Chorale brings to life America’s collective musical ancestry with the final performance of Americana on Sunday, March 5 at 7 p.m. as part of the highly acclaimed Music Series of the First United Methodist Church of San Diego. Tickets at SDGMC.org or at the door.]

“Shenandoah”

Although its exact origins are held secret by the 1800s fur traders and explorers who first sang this dramatically flowing American folk shanty, the earliest lyrics tell the simple tale of a man who fell in love. As often happened with these brave yet lonely pioneers, their attentions were drawn to Native Americans—and in the case of this song, to the daughter of Chief Shenandoah. “Oh Shenandoah, I love your daughter,” the explorer proclaims!

American and Canadian explorers were a rough-hewn crowd, but enjoyed reputations as melodic singers as they navigated the great waterways on their lengthy journeys. From the bows of their canoes, boats and ships, the musical storytelling spread among early American voyagers traversing the country’s great rivers. The Missouri River, portrayed in the original verses as the “rolling river” gives rise to the song also becoming known as “Across the Wide Missouri.”

Artwork: Boatmen on the Missouri c. 1846



“I Bought Me a Cat”

[Editor’s Note: The next few blogs will concentrate on songs chosen for our upcoming Americana concert. The San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus’ acclaimed Chamber Chorale brings to life America’s collective musical ancestry with the final performance of Americana on Sunday, March 5 at 7 p.m. as part of the highly acclaimed Music Series of the First United Methodist Church of San Diego. Tickets at SDGMC.org or at the door.]

“This is the music so embraced generation after generation that it’s become part of our musical consciousness. We grew up hearing these songs-as did our fathers and their fathers before them,” said Artistic Director RC Haus. “The words, notes, rhythms and melodies speak to us of pioneers, cowboys and everyday people exploring the wide open spaces of a new land.”

“I Bought Me a Cat”
Old American Songs Collection
By Aaron Copland (shown here at the piano with a handsome Leonard Bernstein by his side, circa 1940)

The most modern masterwork featured in our Americana concert is composer Aaron Copland’s whimsical children’s song “I Bought Me a Cat”—a far, yet fanciful cry from Copland’s landmark masterworks, the lyrical “Appalachian Spring” and the majestic “Fanfare for the Common Man.” This feline farce affords the opportunity for the singers and accompanist alike to impersonate various barnyard animals like the cat, duck, goose, hen, pig, horse and cow.

British composer Benjamin Britten originally asked Copland to arrange this song as part of a set of American folk tunes for his Music and Art Festival in Aldeburgh, England. Copland wrote five songs for male soloist and piano for the occasion as part of his Old American Songs collection written in 1950 which premiered in June of that year. In 1951, the song made its American premiere with Copland himself at the piano.

Just as fascinating as the song was the man himself–one of the few men of his time and stature to live openly with several romances involving other men in the arts. Before passing away in 1990, Copland was often called the “Dean of American Composers” because of his distinctly American style of composition. So it was ironic that he fell victim to Senator Joseph McCarthy’s rabid investigation of Communists and their sympathizers during the 1950s. Because of the investigation, Copland found himself blacklisted and his name was included on an FBI list of 151 artists thought to have Communist associations. However, his career and reputation as a master survived.