The 40th anniversary season of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus had a different kickoff than originally planned. Following the 2016 election, they decided to make a tour of the Southern U.S., in what they called the Lavender Pen Tour. They were joined last October by members of the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, as they will be for their homecoming concert at Davies this Thursday night, in a program called Bridges. Artistic Director Dr. Tim Seelig says one of the works on the program was inspired by the shootings of young, unarmed, African-American men.
There’s more information about the concert at the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus website.
“Bridges is our welcome home from the ‘Lavender Pen’ tour in October,” says Tim Seelig, “but it’s a lot more than just that. We are going to show videos, and tell stories, and sing some of the repertoire from tour.” The tour got its name from the pen that Harvey Milk gave to Mayor George Moscone, used to sign into law a 1977 gay civil rights bill, and was an effort to share their story and music with Americans in the deep south. It was planned in the immediate aftermath of the 2016 election. “We decided that we were needed at home, and we would go to the south. And sing to the LGBT community, and encourage them, show them some love, raise some money for them. Bring them together in a public way that they hadn’t had before.” 16 year veteran singer Michael Tate says it’s easy to forget how rare the sense of tolerance and community is in San Francisco. “For particularly a chorus of our size that is mostly not men of color, and individuals of color, it was a really eye-opening experience to travel to the south.” And, he says, societal attitudes about sexuality are very different too. “It’s probably a lot tougher there, whether it’s a person of color, a trans person, certainly anyone dealing with their sexual orientation and coming out is in a much more challenging space without a lot of natural cultural support for that journey.” On the program this week, they’ll be singing the California premiere of Seven Last Words of the Unarmed, by Atlanta composer Joel Thompson. “And it is an amazing piece” Tim Seelig says. “It is the texts of seven African-American men who were murdered. It’s the last things that they said before they died. And it’s one of the most powerful pieces any of us have sung, or that I’ve ever conducted.”