LGBTQ pride at the symphony hall
by Philip Campbell
Ever since the election, individuals and organizations with hearts wounded by the nation's shocking division of sympathies have sought ways to resist or respond to the shocking rift with expressions of positive energy. The San Francisco Symphony and Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas, along with everybody's favorite Broadway baby Audra McDonald, are bringing the joy of music to the call for unity with a special concert in Davies Symphony Hall "recognizing and supporting the Bay Area LGBTQ community."
The concert, Symphony Pride, on Tues., April 4, will also provide the opportunity for a heartfelt thank you from MTT, "for the generous welcome extended to me and my husband Joshua Robison since our arrival here over 20 years ago." Everyone knows the community is hardly monolithic, but we always come together when the going gets tough, and the wondrous diversity of the Bay Area is the bond that makes us strong.
Symphony Pride is scheduled shortly before the Orchestra leaves for its East Coast tour. Two concerts in North Carolina have been cancelled in response to legislation overturning transgender protections in that state. MTT & the SFS "believe strongly in representing the values of the community it serves." The concert also celebrates gay composers from Aaron Copland to Stephen Sondheim, and it will be thrilling to hear La McDonald narrating Copland's stirring A Lincoln Portrait. She is also slated to bring her own patented brand of radiant cheer to a selection of songs by Leonard Bernstein and Kander & Ebb.
Musical mavericks Lou Harrison (remember, it's his centennial), Henry Cowell and John Cage – old friends of MTT, whose work he has championed for years – are included in the roster, along with personal favorite (and very much alive) Meredith Monk. Concluding the concert is the triumphant final movement of Gustav Mahler's mighty Symphony No. 1, often called Titan. Let the trumpets sound!
A broadcast of the event will air on Tues., April 11, at 8 p.m. on Classical KDFC 90.3 San Francisco, 104.9 San Jose, 89.9 Napa, and kdfc.com, where it will be available for on-demand streaming.
This is not the first time the SFS has broken with policy to stage a benefit for other organizations. Decades ago, a concert benefiting the Names Project and other Bay Area AIDS agencies titled Threads of Love was mounted during the darkest days of the crisis. In the 1990s, the Orchestra joined with the San Francisco Opera and the San Francisco Ballet for the largest live-performance benefit ever staged in San Francisco, Classical Action: A Concerted Effort Against AIDS. I get a little verklempt thinking back on those tumultuous days and the remarkable shows of sympathy and support received from the Bay Area fine arts community.
AIDS isn't gone yet, and neither, it appears, is ignorance. If we didn't have each other to ponder solutions to curing the hurtfulness of the unaware, who knows what the future might bring? In heartening solidarity, Symphony Pride reminds us that, no matter what, we rise. It's also a chance to put on our party clothes and get down righteously at DSH – how San Francisco is that?
Tickets ($25-$50) are available at sfsymphony.org, by phone at (415) 864-6000, and at the Davies Symphony Hall Box Office.