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    San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus: Celebrating 35 Years

    SFGMC-033SFGMC SantaCon, Davies Symphony Hall


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    On Monday, October 30, 1978, a hundred-plus gay men gathered for the first rehearsal of a new chorus.

    On November 27, 1978, shortly before SFGMC members began assembling for their fifth rehearsal, San Francisco’s mayor, George Moscone, and the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in the United States, Supervisor Harvey Milk, were murdered by Dan White, who served with Milk on the Board of Supervisors.


    The AIDS pandemic would eventually take the lives of hundreds of chorus members, including founder Jon Sims, and at one point cut the number of singers to the lowest ever, 96. Today the chorus memorializes its departed members in its “Fifth Section,” a list highlighted in every program.

    San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein presented the chorus with the Key to the City — the first time that this honor had ever been bestowed on a gay group.

    During the San Francisco Gay Men’s Tour of America in 1981, the chorus performed in nine cities across the US: Dallas, Minneapolis, Lincoln (Nebraska), Detroit, New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., Seattle and, upon their return home, San Francisco.

    The chorus commissioned several pieces of music describing the impact of AIDS on the LGBT community. Two of these that are still sung today are “Invocation and Dance” by David Conti, a professor at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and “Naked Man,” by SFGMC composer-in-residence Robert Seeley and librettist Philip Littell.


    AIDS patients began taking triple-combo therapy and the chorus began a focus on human rights, community activism, empowerment, inclusiveness and the power of music to heal and transform.

    Under the artistic direction of Dr. Kathleen McGuire, and with the passage of Proposition 8 in 2008, which blocked further same-sex marriages, the chorus embarked on a California Freedom Tour, giving concerts in Fresno, Bakersfield, Redding and Vallejo. SFGMC released nine CDs out of the 29 CDs total the chorus has released of their heart-driven performances.


    SFGMC performed at the Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses (GALA) in Denver. SFGMC also traveled to Laramie, Wyoming, to sing a benefit concert for the Matthew Shephard Foundation.

    San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus joined with journalist and author Dan Savage and renowned Broadway composer Stephen Schwartz to bring the “It Gets Better” project to life in a new way — through a collaboration that led to the widely released musical piece known as Testimony. Stephen generously gifted the chorus with Testimony, which the Chorus recorded at SkyWalker Sound with Leslie Ann Jones, a multiple Grammy Award-winning recording engineer.  The Testimony video went viral, reaching an unprecedented number of youth worldwide with a message of hope.

    Santa ConCert delivered 300 singing and dancing men in full Santa suits and, as they have done for the past 25 years, the chorus performed at the Castro Theatre on Christmas Eve with the yearly tradition of Home for the Holidays, which was originally created to bring together those that could not go home for Christmas.

    In 2013, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus sold out Davies Symphony Hall with a first ever show with famed Beach Blanket Babylon in “Snow White & Her Merry Men,” in support of the Make a Wish Foundation.

    In June of 2013, the SFGMC performed its 35th Anniversary Concert “Harvey Milk 2013,” which presented the world premiere of I Am Harvey Milk, a new choral work with music and words by Tony and Grammy Award nominee Andrew Lippa. It was presented at newly opened Nourse Theatre. The recently released original cast recording hit #2 on iTunes within hours.

    Under the baton of artistic director Dr. Timothy Seelig, the chorus has entered an exciting new phase in its 35th year. With more than 300 singing members, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus now performs in iconic San Francisco venues such as Davies Symphony Hall, Nourse Theatre, The Castro Theatre and, this December 2013, at The War Memorial Opera House.

    Looking Ahead to 2014+

    Coming this Spring – In collaboration with the Tyler Clementi Foundation, SFGMC will present the world premiere of “Tyler’s Suite,” by seven of America’s most celebrated composers: Stephen Schwartz, Jake Heggie, John Corigliano, Lance Horne, John Bucchino, Ann Hampton Callaway and Craig Carnelia. “Tyler’s Suite” is a choral song-cycle that pays tribute to Tyler Clementi, the 18-year-old Rutgers University student who took his life three years ago.

    Continuing its mission, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus will strive to create extraordinary musical experiences to inspire community, activism, and compassion.

    SFGMC’s first appearance in Pride Parade and an early rehearsal in 1979
    SFGMC’s first appearance in Pride Parade and an early rehearsal in 1979

    SFGMC Artistic Directors and Conductors

    Jon Reed Sims (October – December 1978)

    Dick Kramer (December 1978 –
    January 1982)

    Robin Kay (Guest Conductor, February – March 1982)

    Robert Erickson, Dale Richard, Claude Zetty (Interim Conductors, 1982)

    Ernie Veniegas (1982–1985)

    Charles Baker, Dennis Coleman, Vance George (Guest Conductors, 1985)

    Greg Tallman (August 1985 – June 1989)

    Dr. Stan Hill, Conductor Emeritus (July 1989 – July 2000)

    Joseph Jennings (Guest Conductor, September – December 1998)

    Dr. Kathleen McGuire, Conductor Laureate (August 2000 – December 2010)

    Dr. Timothy Seelig (January 2011 – Present; Guest Conductor, February – June 2009)

    SFGMC Discography

    SFGMC Tours America ‘81 (Golden Gate Records LP 1981, CD 1992)

    How Fair This Place (1991)

    Brahms, Bernstein, & the Boys! (1993)

    Our Gay Apparel (September 1995, December 2003)

    NakedMan (July 1996)

    ExtrABBAganza! (April 1997)

    Q (1998)

    Our Boys Will Shine (1998)

    Misbehavin’ (with Nell Carter, May 1999)

    Sing Me to Heaven (July 2000)

    Exile (June 2000)

    Best of SFGMC (June 2001)

    I Dream of a Time (November 2001)

    SFGMC Does Queen (June 2002)

    Closer Than Ever, 25th Anniversary Concert (May 2004)

    Oh, Happy Day! (July 2004)

    Home for the Holidays – Live at the Castro Theatre (June 2005)

    Divas’ Revenge: Opera & Broadway Our Way (November 2005)

    Cowboys, Boas and Bears! Oh, My! (June 2006)

    Why We Sing (DVD June 2007)

    USS Metaphor (DVD, May 2008)

    Creating Harmony: 30th Season Highlights and New World Waking (double CD, Dec. 2008)

    A Few Licks (February 2009)

    Tune In, Turn Up, Sing Out (June 2009)

    California Freedom Tour 2010 (May 2010)

    Words (April 2011)

    Testimony (March 2012)

    Enchantingly Wicked (June 2012)

    I Am Harvey Milk (October 2013)