SFGMC rocks Davies Hall!

A performance that started out with the performers in tuxedos descended in air guitar in rock T-shirts.
Steven T. Jones

The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus rocked Davies Symphony Hall last night in a special performance that included the Mission High School Chorus joining the group on stage for a couple songs and a pair of proclamations honoring SFGMC Artistic Director Kathleen McGuire for 10 years leading the venerable singing ensemble.

One proclamation, from the California Legislature, was delivered by Sen. Mark Leno, who praised both McGuide’s inspirational musical leadership and her amazing ability to somehow handle the “200 divas” that make up SFGMC. The other proclamation, delivered by Sup. Bevan Dufty, came from Mayor Gavin Newsom and proclaimed April 22 “Kathleen McGuire Day” in San Francisco.

But the political pomp paled in comparison to the program, “Rockaria!” made up of foot-tapping and delightfully rearranged songs from Queen, Michael Jackson, Journey, Bon Jovi, Blacked Eyed Peas, Elton John, Billy Joel, Coldplay, Doobie Brothers, Joan Jett, Bananarama, Madonna, Yes, and Stevie Wonder, complete with some hilarious dance numbers.

And to make the night even more fun, the program included a sing-along, air guitar performance by audience members, and encouragement of audience members with smart phones to mark the event with simultaneous Twitter or Facebook posts and to use the phones like lighters at a rock concert during one number.

If you ever get a chance to check out this performance, do it! And rock on!


I was there, were you? The concert was dreadful! I couldn't even recognize the second song at all -- the arrangement was horrible, topped only by the 'singing' quality. The 'dancers' were pathetic, and the choreography was stilted, amateurish and embarrassing. Thankfully, the hall was barely full, so fewer people had to endure that horrible experience. The people I came with left laughing at how awful the concert was -- and saddened that these men had spent so much time and effort to pull off such a disgraceful exhibition. Yes, the group got a standing ovation, but SF is known for giving standing ovations to a stack of sandwiches.

Kathleen has overstayed her usefulness. It's time for the Chorus to rise to a higher level and return to the quality group of singers it once was. Where is the SFGMC board to allow the reputation of this group to consistently go downhill, year after year -- for the past 10 years??!!

The only bright spot was the performance by the SF Cheer squad, but that definitely wasn't worth the price of a ticket.

Posted by Guest SFGMC Concert Attendee on Apr. 23, 2010 @ 3:15 pm

If you and your friends were really that unhappy with the show, then you should go ahead and send back the feedback form that was included with the program. As you so rightly point out, there is a great deal of time and effort involved in putting together a program like this, so if you're at all interested in being fair to the hard-working volunteer singers who make up the membership of SFGMC -- as opposed to deriving cheap thrills from bashing the chorus anonymously online -- you'll tell them just what it was that you found wanting.

Posted by Peter on Apr. 23, 2010 @ 4:35 pm

Hey Guest.

Your deprecating generalization about SF audiences only serves to undermine your 'critique' of Rockaira, as well as the artistic direction of SFGMC over the past decade. While there have been a few times in my life that I enjoyed a sandwich worthy of a standing ovation, I've never actually gone through with it. Using derisive comments to imply that the performers (singers, dancers, instrumentalists and conductors) did not earn the standing ovation they received is absurd and seems rather mean-spirited. The performance, and the performers, earned a standing ovation from the majority of the audience members because they used their talent to engage and entertain. I, for one, thought they did both rather well last night.

Popular music spanning multiple generations is a bold programing choice, and judging by the diversity of, and response from, most of the audience, it was also successful. Seeing a group of high school students intermingled and performing with a group of LGBT performers seems quite consistent with SFGMC's vision that I read last night's program. Kudos to Dr. McGuire for using musical choices to build bridges beyond SFGMC's traditional audience.

While reading your posting, I was reminded the of elderly, grumpy Muppets that were seated in the theater box and used to close the show. Nothing but their own snide remarks ever entertained them either.

Posted by Keith on Apr. 23, 2010 @ 6:52 pm

I understand the need for fans of the SFGMC to rally to the defense of the organization but there really is no getting around the fact that Rock Aria was probably one of the worst concerts I have ever sat through.

I have been a big fan of SFGMC for a long time. Their mission is one that I feel strongly about... the men and women that have spent time, money and energy towards furthering that mission should be commended and honored. But there is no arguing that the artistic product is at an all time low.

Each concert I go to has been worse and worse... more and more predictable... and the audience has gotten smaller and smaller. There was one bright spot over the last couple of years when Dr. McGuire was out of town and the podium was handed over to a guest conductor.... that was the wall of sound and passion I remember from days past.

The wonderful thing about San Francisco audiences is that they are loyal and gracious to their performers. But that being said.... this concert was a waste of my time and money. I sat most of the concert with my mouth open, shocked that they would put on the stage something so bad that I would expect to see better at a Jr. High concert. San Francisco has so much talent and so much passion that it is not enough to be impressed by a group of gay men on stage singing....you can see that at just about any club in the city.(and far more at a club.... I counted less than 120 men on stage... which says something about what the membership thought of the product they were putting forth) And the fact that the hall was less than 60% full tells me that Im not the only fan tired of watching a once great organization wasting away to joke.(and not even a funny joke at that.)

I applaud groups that step outside the box and program different music/acts. This is not about the subject matter....it is about the fact that the leadership of the SFGMC has lost touch with the rest of the arts world and what is acceptable to put on the stage. I am happy to watch any of my friends goofy 5 year olds jump and try to sing on youtube.....but Im not about to pay money anymore to pretend its something other than that.

Please SF.....demand a world class organization for your world class city.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 26, 2010 @ 12:50 pm

I agree with Guest. It was an absolutely dreadful concert. I've rarely been so bored in my life. Poor choice of material, bad arrangements, mediocre singing, stupid choreography. The low point of the concert was having some chorus members dress as Michael Jackson during a "tribute." Kathleen Mc Guire is a nice woman, but she needs to go.

If you want to see some gay choral groups in the Bay Area who can actually put on a good concert, try the Golden Gate Men's Chorus, the Peninsula Women's Chorus, the Rainbow Women's Chorus or Menharmonics.

Posted by Mark F. on Apr. 27, 2010 @ 11:44 pm

...so much spirited discussion. It's appreciable.

From my seat in the middle of the orchestra that night, I honestly had a few moments of "hmm... really?", sure. And, they generously outnumbered the moments of "wow... cool!"

Congratulations to the Chorus' efforts. It was bold. It was daring. I look forward to a little more fine tuning next time around. I come back every time not because I expect perfection, but something new and simply fun. This is about the commitment to supporting the arts -- our arts -- and the community -- Our Community. But there is always room for improvement, and some other "high-end" organizations could learn a thing or two from it, I'll wager.

Now, about the dancers: loved the outfits (can I say "butts" on here?), and they (to my eye) put some good work into it. 'Nuff said.

I look forward to their fall concert. They probably have some Pride thing going on, too, but I'm not big on the Pride music.

Ciao Ladies, Gentlemen, and boys.

Posted by Tony on Apr. 28, 2010 @ 5:42 pm

I am perplexed as to what some of these respondents expected at this concert. It was advertised as a pops concert, and that's exactly what was delivered. It was highly entertaining and the arrangements, especially given the subject material, were quite wonderfully done.

One wonders if perhaps "Guest" and friends have a personal axe to grind and have something to gain with their character assassination of the conductor. In the same week that she is honored by the Mayor of our "world class city" and also nominated as a finalist for a national conducting award, their comments simply don't make any sense.

I, for one, am looking forward to SFGMC's next concert with the San Francisco Girls Chorus Alumnae. They're doing John Rutter's Magnificat. Let's see how that compares with the rock music. What other arts organization in this city is brave enough to present such contrasting repertoire in consecutive months? I applaud the chorus for their cutting edge programming and for brightening the lives of so many.

Sing on, men!

Posted by Guest on Apr. 30, 2010 @ 2:36 pm

Oh, for heaven's sake, is it not possible to give a concert a negative review and not be charged with having some personal ax to grind? Let me spell it out: I HAVE NO AX TO GRIND. Do you think Roger Ebert has some personal ax to grind when when he gives many of the films he sees bad reviews? Like Mr. Ebert, I'm calling things as I see or (in this case) hear them.

I'm sorry, but this is not like a grade school play where all the kids get an "A" for effort. Maybe everyone did try hard, but I'm judging the result, which was not good. I've heard gay choruses give great performances. This was not the case here. Just because this is a gay group does not mean they get a pass from me.

I did not engage in character assasination of the conductor. I said she seems like a nice woman. That does not mean she is a good conductor. I have no idea what conducting award she was nominated for, but I'll eat a shoe in Union Square if she wins it. As for the being honored by the major and the State Senate---well, I don't think it has squat to do with her being a good conductor. These honors are routinely issued to hundreds of people.

I have talked to several singers who have left SFGMC because their artistic quality is not up to snuff. It's not just me and Guest who feel this way.

I do hope their next concert is an improvement over this last one.

Posted by Mark F. on May. 01, 2010 @ 2:27 am

To Mark F.

Read this: http://theamericanprize.blogspot.com/?spref=fb

Today, Dr. McGuire was awarded a Special Citation for Musical Excellence from The American Prize specifically for her work as conductor of the SF Gay Men's Chorus. She was one of only three choral conductors who received the inaugural award from a highly competitive, national pool, and the only recipient from a men's chorus or a gay chorus. Unlike being honored by the State Senate or the mayor, this is not an honor that is "routinely issued to hundreds of people." It was awarded for her conducting skills.

So, when will you eat a shoe in Union Square, Mr. F.?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 06, 2010 @ 9:13 pm

Ok, she did win a prize. Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize and proceeded to bomb 4 or 5 countries.

I still say she is/was mediocre and Tim Seelig is a big improvement.

I won't be eating the shoe. Sorry, I lied, should have never said that.

Posted by Mark F. on Apr. 25, 2011 @ 7:05 pm