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    Moon Over San Francisco

    By Dr. Tim Seelig–

    On a recent Saturday evening, Bobby Jo and I attended an event in the far East Bay. We were actually there to watch a friend participate in the East Bay Pro Wrestling championship match! It was our first time at such an event (goes without saying). It is the fodder for an entire article one of these days. We were actually seated outside of a huge garage door to avoid chairs that might have been thrown, etc., and because masks were not required inside. As we sat there, we looked up and noticed bright stars littering the sky—something we don’t often see in San Francisco. And then a sliver of a crescent moon appeared against the black velvet sky. It’s funny how beautiful the stars and the Moon and the sky are away from the city.

    As we came through the Caldecott Tunnel on our way back to the city, we were overjoyed to still see the Moon. As we crossed the Bay Bridge, it slipped behind a building here and burst into sight there. It was enormous. It was as big as some of the high-rise buildings. We were completely spellbound and heartbroken that there was nowhere to stop for a photo along the bridge. We had been caught in the spell of that Old Devil Moon.

    I knew my next article for the paper was due in a few days and wondered if I could find enough interesting material on the Moon. OK, that was one of the silliest questions I may have ever asked myself. Seriously. The next days were spent pondering, reading, researching. Then, the next few days were spent editing the material because I was fairly certain the editors would not dedicate an entire issue to my pontificating on the Moon! It’s the Cliff’s Notes version. Here are the favorite parts of my Moon walk.

    What is it with the Moon and romance that the Sun just doesn’t have? It’s the Sun, after all, that is the source of the Moon’s light. Oh sure, there’s the Beatles “Here Comes the Sun” to indicate a new day, but it’s the Moon that’s the mysterious one.

    The Moon would be nothing if it were not in this completely codependent relationship with the Sun. Thinking about it, those two are much like us as humans. There are parts of us that shine on our own, that give light to others. And there are other parts that reflect those around us, those we chose to love, those we allow to shine their light on us. Some are full suns (or think they are). Some of mere reflections, chameleons, of those around them. It’s the goal of life, isn’t it, to be the best of both the Moon and the Sun? Reflect the good in those around us and shine on our own when it’s the right thing to do.

    I remember very well that the Moon was magical for me as a little boy. I grew up in a fairly large city, Fort Worth, TX, but even in that city we saw the Moon and the stars and the fireflies. We called them lightning bugs. I have to sadly admit that we reduced the lightning bug population by trapping them in a Mason jar and taking them to our room. I’m sure you share favorite moments of lying on the ground and looking up at the sky splattered with stars like sequins on a fancy drag queen. And there was the Moon. Mesmerizing from the smallest crescent to full. This is the closest I ever got to enjoying camping.

    And then there is the man in the Moon. OK, this is one of the parts I just had to edit out. It is crazy fabulous, though, and well worth your time to do some research, even if it is just Wikipedia. The man in the Moon has explanations in many cultures. In Medieval Times (not the restaurant), they believe that Cain, yes, the Bible Cain, had been banished to the Moon and that is who we see. In Chinese mythology, the man in the Moon is a woman! The goddess Chang’e is stranded upon the Moon after foolishly consuming a double dose of an immortality potion. Seeing the man in the Moon requires a very full Moon on a very clear night and an active imagination. But he/she is there. I know, because I’ve seen them.

    I next turned to music … Duh! That occupied the next entire day lost in music inspired by the Moon. Holy cow, there is a lot. This portion is most definitely edited to include only the things I like!

    The most very favorite of all is a setting by Eric Helmuth of “How Sweet the Moonlight.” The text is by Shakespeare. It is spoken by Lorenzo, in The Merchant of Venice, Act 5, Scene 1. There is a beautiful recording on YouTube performed by the Turtle Creek Chorale.

                  “How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank!
                  Here will we sit and let the sounds of music
                  Creep in our ears: soft stillness and the night
                  Become the touches of sweet harmony.

                  The man that hath no music in himself,
                  Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
                  Let no such man be trusted.”

    Further research for the article brought me to Google and a search of songs with Moon in the title. Oh, Good Lordt. That is a rabbit hole big enough for an elephant to pass without touching the sides!

    I thought the site that popped up first would be perfect: “25 Best Songs about the Moon for My Wedding.” Imagine my utter shock and dismay when I did not know a single song. They were by the likes of Black Pumas, Kid Cudi and Eminem, Chris Tomlin, Pop Smoke, Gaby Barrett, Tracy Lawrence, Pearl Jam, Egine featuring T-Pain, Brandy, Savage Garden, and oh so many more.

    If those are the top 25 wedding songs with Moon in the title, I am even more grateful not to be attending straight people’s weddings these days.

    100% showing my age.

    As I scrolled through the entries, I screamed for one from a time obviously long gone by. “Where, oh where, could the classic Moon songs have gone? Where was “Moon River,” “Blue Moon,” or “Fly Me to the Moon”? The history of “Moon River” alone could fill an article. The song almost didn’t make the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s because Audrey Hepburn was not a singer and didn’t like it so much. Henry Mancini insisted. The rest is history with Andy Williams recording it the same year. All of that aside, it had a resurgence when it became a standard on Elton John’s tours. It matters not to me how many songs there are. None will surpass the three mentioned in this paragraph.

    I’ll just have to “bless and release” my bitterness over lack of taste, but where are the real classical pieces? I’ll start with Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata (one of my earliest piano pieces after I had mastered “The Spinning Song”). I’ll move on to Debussy’s stunning Clair de Lune (John Thompson’s red book 3rd grade). Finally, one of the most gorgeous songs ever composed about the Moon, “Mondnacht” by Schumann. It was one of the German pieces I performed in my graduation recital from the Mozarteum in Salzurg, Austria, a hundred years ago. All of the above are transcendent in their beauty.

    It is dangerous to even begin listing songs with moon in them. I think there are more of them than songs with sun and stars combined. And If I start listing them, someone out there is going to scream like I did when I leave out your very favorite.

    OK, enough songs already. Let’s return to our childhood and the best-selling book Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. Over the past sixty years, Goodnight Moon has become the quintessential bedtime story, selling more than eleven million copies worldwide. The book has been translated into countless languages.

                  “Goodnight room
    Goodnight moon
    Goodnight cow jumping over the moon.”

    And, because I am never far from the music, take a moment and go to YouTube and listen to Eric Whitacre’s choral setting of the entire book. Well, it’s a short book! ( https://tinyurl.com/dj274ywv )

    No, I am not going into the cow that jumped over the moon. There’s just no time and she was slow. I’m not going into the prank of mooning someone—whether on a street corner or out a car window. Let’s jump around some final topics related to the Moon before we say goodnight.

    After this beautiful, fun, uplifting article, I thought, I’ll go see what the Bible has to say about the Moon. It is, after all, part of my DNA (I am trying to alter). “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood before the great and notable day of the Lord.” Acts 2:20. OK, moving on. Should have known better.

    Oh, my goodness. There is so much more. The outlandish dream of putting a man on the Moon galvanized the nation throughout the 60s. JFK used it as a symbol of Americans dreaming and achieving huge goals. And it did just that when the first man landed on the Moon on July 20, 1969; a huge leap for mankind, except, of course, for those who truly believed it was staged in a huge barn in Georgia.

    There is howling at the Moon and Halloween. Unfortunately, a full Moon only happens on Halloween every 18 or 19 years. Werewolves only appear during full Moons. And, of course, people act crazy during full Moons!

    OK, stick a fork in it, the Moon is done. Maybe over-done. Regardless, researching and writing this article has most definitely given me a new “don’t take the Moon for granted” mandate. It’s been wonderful to see the breathtaking array of feelings the Moon evokes and the variety of methods of expression.

    As I turn in the article, I’m going to go back to that ride across the Bay Bridge when I saw the Moon for the first time—again. I had forgotten that I love the Moon. I hope you’ll take a few moments and look at your own relationship to that ever-changing reflection of light that adorns the sky accompanied by its very own sequin-studded velvet throw!

    Dr. Tim Seelig is the Artistic Director of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.

    Published on September 23, 2021