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Musical adventures - the funcrunch files


Apr. 6th, 2013 11:41 am Musical adventures

Since I joined the Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco in late February I've been doing a lot more singing, and really enjoying it. I hadn't sung in a formal choral ensemble since the Berkeley Broadway Singers back in the year 2000. I also performed in a concert of popular music with the Berkeley Community Chorus that same year, but there's no mention of that show on their site, perhaps because it wasn't part of their usual classical repertoire. (We recorded an album though!)

With the BCCO and BBS I sang tenor as they really needed more members in that section; in fact 1/3-1/2 of the tenors were female then. But after taking voice lessons and expanding the upper end of my range, I figured I would perform better as an alto, so joined that section in the LGCSF. I didn't end up needing a formal audition; I was just asked to sit and sing with the chorus at the first rehearsal I visited, and by then end of the evening I was writing a check for my first month's dues, having committed to becoming a member.

I wanted to join because I loved the humor and bawdiness of their "anti-Valentine's Day" show, Love Bites. This group clearly knew how to have a good time. I knew I'd fit in even though I'm bisexual, not gay; they welcome people of all orientations.

I was not disappointed; my first show with the chorus, Something Foolish, was a cabaret at Martuni's featuring lots of silly songs in honor of April Fool's Day, with bunny ears and a sing-a-long for Easter. I suggested the song "Chain of Fools", which I'd previously played bass and sung backup on at Blue Bear. Our director, Billy, found a choral arrangement that was in a lower key, so I ended up singing lead. boyziggy and I took a bunch of photos, which are posted on Facebook.

I was happy that numerous friends came out to support me: nine in total over the two-day run. Several of us went to The Mint after the first (matinee) show. I sang one of my karaoke standards, "New York State of Mind", and gained some admirers from the crowd. I mean people were coming up to me and hugging and kissing me and thanking me for making their day. Pretty mind-blowing. Of course, my friends James (first time at karaoke!) and Rick (first time at the Mint!) also got hit on by an overly-enthusiastic attendee, so alcohol might have been a factor...

Through the LGCSF, I also learned of a monthly open mic hosted by their former artistic director, Stephanie, aka "Miss Smith". I already knew about her, not only from the Love Bites show which she co-hosted, but from her hilarious video on "How to Treat Your Pianist" which, having played hundreds of auditions in high school and college, I could relate to very, very well. (Though I never minded being called an "accompanist", personally.) At the March open mic I sang "Mister Cellophane" from Chicago, which went really well, even better than expected as I had a slight cold at the time. I was hoping to audition with this as a possible LGCSF solo, but it looks like we're not going to have any solos for next concert in June. Hopefully I'll be able to perform it some time in the future. I was rehearsal pianist for a production of Chicago at Northwestern back in '89 or '90, but had only performed the song myself once since, at The Mint.

For last night's open mic, I sang "Home" and "Be A Lion" from The Wiz. I played piano for this show while still in high school, at the Jewish Community Center of Pittsburgh. I was the only black person involved with the production. It was not only an all-white cast, it wasn't even all-Jewish; several kids joined the JCC temporarily just so they could be in the show. Our musical director only had experience leading choirs, and certainly not gospel ones. She directed everyone to "Enunciate!" and pronounce each word with no soul whatsoever. It was pretty comical.

I did sing these Wiz songs once each in voice classs, one in college over 20 years ago and one in my first (and only) Blue Bear group voice class nearly 10 years ago. I had a book of vocal selections, and practiced with Chad to figure out what would be a good key (both were written for a soprano). Settled on a fourth down, and transcribed and transposed "Be A Lion" myself with Sibelius. This took so long (as I was duplicating every bit of the entire piece, not just making a lead sheet) that I decided to pay $5.25 to MusicNotes to get the other piece in the new key. I should have just done that for both pieces. Anyway, fortunately Stephanie was able to sight-read both my hand-transcribed chart and the professional chart just fine, and the performance went off very well.

Before the open mic, I looked up The Wiz on Netflix and decided to watch it, since I hadn't seen it all the way through. It was dreadful, just a step above Xanadu in terms of plot and screenplay. Michael Jackson was excellent as the scarecrow and there were a few other standout performances, but making Dorothy a 20-something school teacher from Harlem rather than a teenage farm girl from Kansas, setting Oz in a vaguely post-apocalyptic New York City, and casting a non-singing and not-particularly-funny (in this role) Richard Pryor in the title role, were all just bad decisions. (The original director was let go after refusing to work with a 33-year-old Diana Ross, who had forced herself into the role, as Dorothy.) Definitely don't recommend this film despite the great music. I'll have to see if there's a filmed version of the Broadway show with Stephanie Mills...

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Comments:

From:funcrunch
Date:April 9th, 2013 12:02 am (UTC)
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Thanks! I'm happy the director let me do a solo in my first performance with the chorus.
From:jefftabaco
Date:April 10th, 2013 04:48 pm (UTC)
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So happy about your latest musical adventures, and had a great time at your LGCSF show! Go you!
From:funcrunch
Date:April 10th, 2013 08:53 pm (UTC)
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Thanks Jeff! Glad that you and Thom could make the show.