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    Donna’s Chronicles, “The challenges of this pandemic have stymied some…”

    By Donna Sachet–

    The challenges of this pandemic have stymied some, but they have also demonstrated amazing resilience in others. Those of us who frequently indulged in the enjoyment of live performances and other artistic expressions have been flailing about for months, trying to find that indescribable sensation somewhere. Yes, the San Francisco Opera has made past performances available online, offering a glimpse at this rich and multi-layered art form. Yes, the de Young Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and the California Academy of Sciences have all offered virtual three-dimensional walk-throughs, putting a treasure trove of beauty, nature, and history in your living room. And yes, individual performers of all kinds, comic, drag, dramatic, musical, and others, have reinvented themselves by creating a home studio, experimenting with apps, and gazing into a camera lens in order to keep in touch with their loyal fan bases. But, by and large, we remain unsatisfied.

    Last Saturday, however, the SF Gay Men’s Chorus (SFGMC) shared its 42nd birthday celebration online and delivered the perfect combination of humor, music, history, and community, an oasis of entertainment in a desert of boredom. Yes, we have a special fondness for this group, since they were one of the first organizations we joined after arriving in San Francisco over 25 years ago. Yes, we appreciate any and all efforts by community groups struggling to stay relevant in unprecedented times. And yes, we are going to gush a bit, so sit back and get ready!

    The Artistic Director of SFGMC is a born entertainer, so from the first image of Tim Seelig in formal white tie from the waist up and loungewear waist down, we knew we were in for a rollicking good time. Anniversary celebrations of any kind can quickly devolve into maudlin events without a healthy dose of self-deprecation and light-hearted humor; no fear of that here! This being a choral group, of course the event was full of music, including concert performances by the full chorus and its small ensembles, Homophonics and The Lollipop Guild, in various venues at times during its history, from Kool & the Gang’s Celebration at the Sydney Goldstein Theater and It’s Rainin’ Men at Davies Symphony Hall to a moving Never, Ever sung at the AIDS Memorial Grove and a world premiere of Andrew Lipp’s What Will We Hear? with guest artist Christine Chenoweth. Executive Director Chris Verdugo continued the fashion mash-up during his remarks, combining a handsome tuxedo jacket with printed beach shorts. (Those legs! Who knew?)

    Events of this kind serve the important function of sharing the larger mission of SFGMC and Associate Artistic Director Mitch Galli spoke about the youth outreach of RHYTHM and the sadly cancelled spring concert, Penned in Pink, celebrating LGBTQ composers at Davies Symphony Hall. He introduced the online world premiere of Julian Hornik’s Extracurricular, featuring some tantalizing male sports images to frame the whimsical music. Principal Accompanist and Artistic Coordinator Lynden Bair appeared in a particularly touching vignette, sharing his amazing talent and deep connection to the chorus.   

    We admit to loving those unexpected cameo appearances from genuine celebrities, especially those with a special connection to our LGBTQ Community, and this event kept them coming. Wanda Sykes, Sharon Stone, Martha Wash, and Pete & Chasten Buttigieg all made appearances and shared birthday wishes. As an anniversary celebration, SFGMC was careful to acknowledge its sister organizations, also founded by Jon Sims, the SF Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band and the Lesbian/Gay Chorus, and to include messages from past Artistic Directors Kathleen McGuire and Stan Hill,phoning in from Australia and Palm Springs, respectively. Prerecorded greetings followed from around the world and across the country.

    We can’t say enough about the seamless technical execution of SFGMC’s 42nd Anniversary event, under the direction of Brian Kent. How many online programs have we watched with high hopes, only to be frustrated by audio/visual glitches and well intentioned, but less than professional, individual efforts? Let’s face it: virtual events have come a long way in the past eight months or so, raising the bar and elevating our expectations, leaving little room for technical snafus and/or time gaps.

    One of the best things about this event is that it stands as a demonstration of what can be accomplished within the new National LGBTQ Center for the Arts, the building that is now home to the SFGMC. They are anxious to share this space with similarly aligned artistic groups in need of rehearsal and performance space and hungry for collaboration and growth. As the restrictions surrounding the current health crisis ease, availability and flexibility within this space will make professional, top quality virtual and in-person events possible.

    Congratulations to the newest title holders of the Imperial Court, Mr. Gay San Francisco Sage Sanchez Munro and Miss Gay San Francisco Linda Summers, who competed in last week’s pageant. Our Reigning Monarchs, Emperor William Bulkley & Empress Mimi Osa,continue to find new and reinvented ways to perpetuate the events and important fundraising of the Imperial Court. For an astounding look at the history of the Court System, check out the virtual film screening listed in this column’s calendar.

    Donna Sachet is a celebrated performer, fundraiser, activist and philanthropist who has dedicated over two decades to the LGBTQ Community in San Francisco. Contact her at

    Calendar a/la Sachet

    Friday, October 23
    50 Years of Fabulous
    Frameline, GLBT Historical Society, Roxie Cinema, & OUTWORDS
    present the virtual premiere of documentary about Imperial Court of SF
    Drag performances, film screening, panel discussion
    7 pm
    Free! Contributions welcome

    Saturday, November 7
    MIGHTY REAL: PRC’s annual gala
    Online event with special guest THE Patti LaBelle
    Absinthe Brasserie & Bar delivered food & wine
    6 pm

    Published on October 22, 2020