During the fall of 1978, a call went out to men in and around the Castro who liked to sing inviting them to a gathering with the purpose of possibly creating a chorus. The driving force was Jon Sims, the conductor of the Freedom Band. October 30 was chosen as the date of the first “rehearsal” to be held at Everett Middle School. The word went out, flyers posted around the neighborhood.
Interest mounted leading up to that first gathering held at Everett Middle School. Around 100 men showed up on the first night. The atmosphere of excitement was described as palpable. The men sang “If They Could See Me Now” and “Stouthearted Men”!
Jon Sims conducted the first couple of rehearsals, planning to call the group “Men About Town.” Other suggested names for the group (seriously) were Foggy City Chorus and Homosexual Choir (“gay” was still considered denigrating). After a few weeks, Dick Kramer was brought on to conduct the new group and, thank goodness, they settled on the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus. It turned out to be a fortuitous decision. One of the small groups did keep the name “Men About Town.” By the way, the original name of the SF Gay and Lesbian Freedom Band was the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Marching Band and Twirling Corps.
The rest of the story is now legendary and suitable for movie scripts. At the 4th rehearsal, on November 27, having spent the day with the news of Harvey Milk and George Moscone’s assassinations, the singers showed up to rehearsal grief-stricken and in shock. Dick Kramer passed out Mendelsohn’s “Thou, Lord our Refuge.” They all went from there to City Hall steps for the candlelight vigil where they performed for the very first time.
Little did the men who gathered those 35 years ago know they were actually giving birth to a world-wide LGBT Choral phenomenon that now boasts hundreds of choruses around the globe.
The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus creates extraordinary musical experiences that inspire community, activism, and compassion.
We envision a world inspired and unified by the music we create.
We believe in the transformative power of music to heal, to enlighten and to foster unity.
We embrace the life affirming changes we create within and beyond our chorus community.
We evolve society’s views toward LGBT people through our commitment to excellence.
We honor all who came before us and whose sacrifices made it possible for us to raise our voices.
Jon Reed Sims (October - December 1978) Founder
Dick Kramer (December 1978 - January 1982)
Ernie Veniegas (June 1982– December 1985)
Gregg Tallman (August 1985 - June 1989)
Dr. Stan Hill (July 1989 - July 2000). Conductor Laureate, July 2012
Dr. Kathleen McGuire (August 2000 - December 2010). Conductor Laureate, January 2011.
Dr. Timothy Seelig (Guest Conductor February - June 2009, Artistic Director January 2011 – Present)
James Eakin III
Music Director, The Lollipop Guild
Music Director, SWAG
Music Director, HomoPhonics
Member Services Coordinator
Interim Administrative Coordinator
The role of the Golden Gate Performing Arts Board of Directors is to support the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus in its mission to create extraordinary musical experiences that inspire community, activism, and compassion. The Board maintains oversight of the mission, financial and fiduciary management, maintaining public trust in the institution, hiring and evaluation of Executive staff, and support for Executive staff. Through appreciation and respect for the organization’s history, the Board leads the organization as visionaries for the future.
The Legacy Society of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus is an illustrious group of patrons, donors and singers who, through their visionary philanthropy, have made a commitment to ensuring the Chorus’ future by remembering the Chorus in their estate plans.
In particular, we are thankful to have been the recipient of generous gifts in recent years through the visionary estates of Michael Ancil Clark Living Trust, Robert Roy Emery Trust, Jerry Geller and Ken Sullivan, James H. Jones Asset Trust, William G. Stephens Revocable Trust, and Archibald Wilson.
Our Legacy Society members ensure that the transformative power of our music will continue to heal, enlighten, and foster unity. Together – we dream of a world where people are drawn together by the extraordinary musical experiences the Chorus creates.
The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus expresses its deep appreciation to the following Legacy Society members who have contributed to the Chorus’ future through an estate gift:
Together – we honor the legacies of those who have come before us and continue to empower us to raise our voices.
To learn how you too can include SFGMC in your estate planning, or to complete a Declaration of Intent, please contact Wil Wright, Development Manager, at (415) 865-3650 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
The Lollipop Guild was founded as a barbershop quartet in 1979 and is recognized as the world’s first openly gay vocal ensemble. Since then, The Lollipop Guild has grown to an ensemble that features light-hearted and upbeat styles of singing, with rich harmonies and dazzling choreography.
Vocal Minority was founded in 2003 during the Chorus’ landmark 25th anniversary season reviving an ensemble Vocal Minority that had began in 1980. Vocal Minority guarantees to sing its way into everyone’s hearts. Their repertoire ranges from the sublime to the ridiculous, with luscious choral sound as its backbone.
Formed in 2013, SWAG brings a unique soulful beat to their performances. Focusing on gospel, R&B and pop genres, SWAG was formed to focus on outreach to underserved and minority communities, especially youth. Performances have included San Francisco’s Martin Luther King commemorations.
SFGMC’s newest vocal ensemble, HomoPhonics, began as a result of the recent a cappella craze. Focusing on musical cohesion without instruments, the group uses arrangements that feature tight, dynamic harmonies and vibrant, upbeat rhythms.
With nearly 300 active members, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus is a wealth of talent, but this group of men is also a family of love and support, celebrating our gay pride through musical excellence.
SFGMC is a great place to meet people while doing something enjoyable and worthwhile. In addition to our regular concert series, we have appeared with celebrities, on television, for benefits, parades and fund-raisers, and we have toured to other states and countries. There is always a lot going on, and you are encouraged to become as involved in as many additional activities and performances as you are able.
Our family is always growing and welcoming new members, so feel free to audition if you would like to join the fun.
Patti LuPone Joins San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus for Spring Fundraising Event at Home of Ann & Gordon Getty
Evening raises much-needed funds for outreach, youth engagement and touring
SFGMC presenting composer Jake Heggie with 2016 Champion Award
Today, we announced our spring fundraising event at the home of Ann & Gordon Getty in San Francisco on Tuesday, March 29, 2016 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., featuring two-time Tony Award winner Patti LuPone, and honoring composer Jake Heggie with a Champion Award.
The evening is presented by the Bob Ross Foundation, Terrence Chan and Edward Sell and Putnam Automotive Group, and includes a cocktail reception, followed by an intimate salon performance by Broadway superstar Patti LuPone and a select ensemble of SFGMC singers.
“Entering the iconic Getty House is a thrill all by itself,” writes Dr. Timothy Seelig, SFGMC Artistic Director. “It is a veritable art museum perched high above the gorgeous bay. Entering the exquisite music salon for an intimate concert with Patti LuPone raises that experience to a level few will experience in their lives. And all of this to support the amazing outreach programs that are central to SFGMC’s mission – it’s truly amazing.”
One of the hallmarks of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus is its tireless outreach fulfilling its mission of community, activism, and compassion. The Chorus and its ensembles perform approximately 40 non-ticketed appearances annually. These are in a wide range of venues and audiences including public schools, elder facilities and benefit concerts for amazing nonprofit organizations.
The funds raised at the home of Ann & Gordon Getty will assist in continuing these performances in the Bay Area, deepen engagement with local youth programs and underserved communities, as well as help seed future tours.
Miles Walls, SFGMC Development Coordinator, elaborates, “The funds raised will assist in continuing our outreach efforts across the Bay Area, as well as help seed national and international tours. This summer, the Chorus will perform a benefit in Colorado Springs, raising much-needed awareness and funds for people living in a very conservative area of our country, and plans are also underway for SFGMC to be the first openly gay chorus to travel to China in 2018 as part of our 40th anniversary.”
Dr. Seelig continues, “Patti LuPone is spectacular in a concert with a packed house, full symphony orchestra, sets, costumes, lights – all of it. But imagine sitting in a stunning music salon, in an iconic San Francisco mansion with only 80 other people, Patti and a grand piano – up close and very personal. This experience is truly once in a lifetime, and a great moment for SFGMC.”
Thanks to the generosity of one of our donors, as well as the kindness of Ann & Gordon Getty for donating their home for the event, the expenses for the evening are entirely underwritten. 100% of all donations go directly to the Chorus, which funds our touring, youth and outreach initiatives.
For more information, please click here.
About Patti LuPone
Patti LuPone is a two-time Tony Award winner for two now-legendary stage performances: as Argentina’s controversial First Lady Eva Peron in the Broadway premiere of the musical Evita; and as Madame Rose, the mother of stripper Gypsy Rose Lee, in the most recent Broadway revival of the classic musical Gypsy.
This summer, she will take on her latest stage role, that of cosmetics pioneer Helena Rubenstein, in the world premiere of the new Scott Frankel-Michael Korie-Douglas Wright musical War Paint at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre.
Select highlights of her stage career include performances as Lucia in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle Award nominations); Mrs. Lovett in John Doyle’s production of Sweeney Todd (Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle Award nominations); Maria Callas in Master Class; Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes (Drama Desk Award; Tony Award nomination); Moll in The Cradle Will Rock; Nancy in Oliver!; The Reporter in Accidental Death of An Anarchist; and Rosamund in The Robber Bridegroom (Tony and Drama Desk Award nominations). A long-time collaborator of writer-director David Mamet, she starred on Broadway in his plays The Anarchist, The Old Neighborhood, and The Water Engine; off-Broadway in The Woods and Edmond; and appeared in his films State and Main and Heist. She is a founding member of both the Drama Division of New York’s Juilliard School and John Houseman’s The Acting Company.
In London, she was the first American actor to appear with the Royal Shakespeare Company in their production of Les Misérables, in which she created the role of Fantine. For that performance, as well as for a reprise of her performance as Moll in a West End engagement of The Cradle Will Rock, she was the first American actor to win London’s coveted Olivier Award.
Patti LuPone’s film credits include Parker, Union Square, City By The Sea, Just Looking, Summer of Sam, Driving Miss Daisy, and Witness. Her television credits include appearances on “Girls,” “American Horror Story: Coven,” “30 Rock,” “Law & Order: SVU,” “Glee,“ “Ugly Betty,” “Will & Grace,” the Emmy winning telecasts of “Passion” and “Sweeney Todd,” “Oz,” “Monday Night Mayhem,” “Evening At the Pops” with John Williams and Yo Yo Ma, “Frasier” (Emmy nomination), “Law & Order,” “The Water Engine,” “L.B.J,” and “Life Goes On.” She returns to “Penny Dreadful” this season as Dr. Seward, after receiving critical acclaim and a Critics’ Choice Award nomination from her performance last season.
© 2013 Golden Gate Performing Arts