Making music. Making history.
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.