Main | Tuesday, January 08, 2008

JMG & The SF Gay Men's Chorus

Well, sorta kinda. Ish. Very ish.

Years ago I belonged to an online chat forum populated by aspiring writers, artsy types, and other regular mo's. One of the forum members I befriended was Steve Schalchlin, the award-winning musical theater writer and performer that I have mentioned here many times. Some of you know Steve from his hit Off Broadway shows such as The Big Voice: God Or Merman.

Steve is a longterm AIDS survivor and he and I spoke many times about the horrors of the epidemic and the people we have lost. Discussion on the forum also often turned to the topic of dating, as those things usually do, and when questioned by Steve and other participants about my very long-running singleness, I would usually reply flippantly that I was burned out on losing people and was now officially "dead inside".

Steve was intrigued by the concept of the emotional surrender implied by the phrase "dead inside" and thought it could make an interesting platform for a song. He asked me for some sample lyrics and being the great songwriter that he is, he immediately discarded my very lame attempt and went to work. A few months later, he sent me an audio file of his performance of Dead Inside and I was instantly wrecked. He nailed it. Last year he recorded another version using noted Chicago-based transgender cabaret singer Alexandra Billings. You can download the demo of the recording here, or listen below in the embedded player.

But here's the big news. Steve has worked Dead Inside into a "cantata for peace" titled Pantheon Bar & Grill which will be performed in December by the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus with a full orchestra at Davies Hall as half of their annual Christmas concert.

From Steve's blog:

I began writing this piece four years ago, beginning with a core of four lyrics written by my friend, Rev. Peter Carman, who you might remember is the pastor of Lakewood Baptist Church in Rochester, New York.

Beginning with those songs, I began adding numbers one at a time as pondered the philosophies of relentless non-violence and watched the conflicts in the Middle East. If you're been reading this blog and following the videos, you've seen some of the songs: My Thanksgiving Prayer and Holy Dirt are but two.

One new song, which you might enjoy listening to, examines the deadening result of violence on the soul. It's called "Dead Inside" (title inspired by my friend and blogger, Joe.My.God.) and the demo recording is sung by Alexandra Billings.


And as exciting as it has been for me to have written the scores for two off-Broadway shows, the idea of sitting in a huge concert hall and having my songs sung by a 250-voice choir accompanied by an orchestra on a major anniversary of the community I love so very much is about as thrilling a notion as I can possibly imagine.

So a song (sort of) about me will be sung by the SF Gay Men's Chorus. Weird, exciting...but also, more than a little unnerving. I hope to make it out there for show in December, if I get brave enough, that is. Congratulations to Steve Schalchlin on his exciting news.

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