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Showing posts from May, 2008

My Nephew, Jonathan AKA Mr. Casanova.

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One of the nicest things to be happening this year is that all my nieces and nephews are coming of age, some in college, some just out of college and some just graduating high school. I previously wrote about Geoffrey stirring things up at his high school in west Texas.

Last week, I finally got together with my nephew, Johnathan, who came out here to L.A. earlier in the school year to attend the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandise. And, no, he's not gay like his Uncle Steve. So, girls, have at him. He also has way more cool than his Uncle Steve.

Proof: In addition to going to school, he's making money by throwing parties in hip L.A. night clubs. He's apparently getting very good at it because the clubs are now pursuing him, and he's getting the kinds of hip, young people these clubs crave.

They call him Mr. Casanova, and he has a MySpace page.

The picture adjoining this blog is his current facebook photo, Jonathan standing with a beautiful blond girl. Who knew he …

Beloved AIDS Bahama AIDS Activist Wellington Adderley Murdered.

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My Bahamian HIV positive musician friend, Andrew Jones, has informed me that the very beloved AIDS activist Wellington Adderley, administrator for the AIDS Foundation for the Bahamas, has been found murdered. Andrew, who is traveling right now, is devastated.

Wellington was one of the first persons with AIDS who freely came out both with his disease and being gay, and who has worked tirelessly, both at the community level and in the media to bring attention to the disease in the Bahamas.

He's the kind of person who cannot be replaced. His work and the respect afforded him in the Bahamas was legendary. Here is the link to the news story.

I also did a little poking around on some of the Bahamian discussion boards and discovered that there is a level of anxiety and fear in the community as he's the third murder of a high profile gay man in recent times. On the street, they think there's a serial killer, but the police are saying there is no evidence the crimes were related. Howe…

For My Friends, Lowen & Navarro

Two of the nicest, kindest and most talented songwriters I know in Los Angeles are a duet named "Lowen & Navarro." When I was at my sickest, back 1994, lying in the hospital deciding whether to live or die, it was the middle of the night. Suddenly, unexpectedly, Lowen & Navarro came on the TV and it was like friends appearing to me out of the night. I remember lying there crying my eyes out, looking for any reason to continue. And they became a part of it.

Sadly, Eric Lowen, a tall, handsome and brilliant musician and singer, has been struck down with ALS. But he and Dan have battled together over these years, keeping the band together and they've recorded a new CD, even. Now comes this note.

Hi guys --

Most of you are friends and colleagues of long standing. You all probably know my 28-year partner in Lowen & Navarro, Eric Lowen, was diagnosed in March 2004 with the progressive neurodegenerative disease ALS, aka Lou Gehrig's Disease. Though he can't w…

Happy Memorial Day & Happy Anniversary to us!

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Help the Great Gene Colan, Comic Artist.

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I just read Mark Evanier's blog that one of my all-time favorite comic book artists, Gene Colan, is ill and all the other artists, along with Marvel, are pitching in to help him with his medical bills. If any of my readers love comic art, and want to help Gene, go over to Clifford Meth's blog and bid on an auction item.

I used to pour over his issues of Dr. Strange, loving his very human and expressive faces. I could spot a Gene Colan comic a mile away. I'm so sorry to read about his health issues.

"And the winner is David ..."

Last night, we, like many others, watched the final episode of "American Idol." However, we went into it already knowing the outcome because Jim accidentally saw a headline online that gave it away. (I think the words "shocking upset" were used).

"Oh, man, I didn't want to see that." He looked so sad.

At first, I didn't want him to tell me. But then I decided I'd rather know what he knows, so we can talk freely during the show.

The show itself I found culturally bizarre, but oddly entertaining, careening back and forth between the sublime and the awkward.

For instance, it makes no sense to me for Simon to always make the point that this competition is about looking for a pop music artist, not a variety or Broadway star type of singer -- remember how much he hated Syesha's choice, and high school Bob Fosse cabaret performance of, "Steam Heat" -- and then put them into these June Taylor Dancer step-turn, step-turn production numbers al…

Medical Test Results.

Dr. Mathur looked at me, after glancing at my test results and asked, "Have you been feeling tired lately?"

I went into my appointment today expecting the worst. As a matter of fact, I have been feeling listless lately. Not waking up as early as usual. Not feeling the same kind of energy. And also sleeping a lot. A lot.

But, frankly, I hadn't really given it much thought. I just figured I was maybe on an emotional downturn or tired from travel. Or even slightly depressed despite all the good things that have been going on. I don't usually suffer from depression, but I can dip into these little valleys every once in awhile that affect my being able to think clearly. They don't last long, and don't come around very often, so I don't worry about them, preferring to just ride them out. And usually they go away after a few days.

The other thing is that with so much travel, my diet has not been great. My expectation was that everything would be a big mess. My meds…

The Geoff Story Continues.

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There's a movie in this story. It's just so fun to imagine it playing out. I was always a bit of a rebel, at least in my heart. So, when school administrators get all hot and bothered over nothing, and the kids revolt, it makes me laugh -- no disrespect intended for my many readers who are educators. Call it a character flaw on my part.

As you might recall, my quiet, never causes any trouble nephew, Geoff, was handcuffed and tossed out, and then banned from his Senior class events for stripping down to his boxers on the dance floor of the prom during YMCA. Everyone involved agrees that it was an over-reaction to someone clowning around.

So, now the whole student body has been rebelling against this, including, sadly, someone spray-painting "FREE GEOFF!" on the school building. That's the one really sour note.

The students, though, are taking this whole Geoff thing as a kind of good natured joke, even though they are angry that Geoff has been treated this way. But, …

So, What About "My Rising Up?"

Friends of mine have pointed out that I've been talking all around "My Rising Up" and not describing how the song went, how I felt as it was being performed during the concert Friday night.

I can tell you in one simple phrase.

I wasn't there.

Oh, I was sitting in my seat. But somehow I went someplace else because if you asked me how they sounded? I have no idea.

What do I remember. Hm. I remember unadulterated glee.

The sensory input was overwhelming. A chorus. A symphony hall. I remember how great the groove sounded and I remember great singing.

Yes! Tempo. I pieced that rehearsal video together from three different takes of the song. They fit on top of one another perfectly.

Do you know how amazing that is?

Kathleen has some inner clock that is metronome sharp but is all human. This, by the way, is a very good thing for rock and roll or Gospel music because when a great drummer finds, settles into and then locks onto the essential groove in a song, it becomes like a little…

Free Geoff.

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The thing everyone agrees on about my nephew Geoff, who lives in Borger Texas, and who I have seen maybe only once or twice in his lifetime -- I'm a very bad uncle -- is that he is a very sweet boy. He's graduating high school this year. Never causes trouble. Everyone adores him. His teachers adore him. The other students adore him.

Apparently, at the prom, he stripped to his boxers during the song "YMCA." Everyone at the prom laughed, even the teachers, I'm told. But the principal was not amused. He grabbed a cop and threw Geoff out, and then imposed a very stiff campus restriction. But now the student body is rebelling and a "Free Geoff" campaign has been started.

Apparently, my nephew has been punished unjustly at Borger High School in Borger, Texas.

My niece, Emily, his sister, tells the story:
<--Geoff with his date. You can forward this or whatever: Well, this past Saturday, Borger had its prom. Near the end of it, YMCA came on, and Geoff decided…

Mark Evanier on "Fresh Air."

My friend, Mark Evanier will be a guest on Wednesday on Fresh Air, the popular talk program on National Public Radio. He writes:
The topic, of course, will be Jack Kirby and my new book on the guy...though the interviewer (we taped it this afternoon) spent more time than I would have liked asking me about me. Why you'd discuss me when you could be discussing Jack Kirby, I cannot begin to explain. We recorded much more interview than they're going to broadcast so perhaps most of that will get excised. Either way, there'll be a podcast link here whenever one is available...or you could do the unusual trick of actually listening to a radio show on the radio. This link will take you to the home page for the series and from there, you can find info on your local station.Actually, although I agree that you can't say enough about comic book artist Jack Kirby, Mark is, himself, a fascinating person who has led a very colorful and interesting life as a comic book and televi…

The Kid in the Candy Store.

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Dr. Kathleen McGuire conducting "My Rising Up" for the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus.
She conducts with her entire body.

"I feel like a kid in a candy store."

This is what I said to celebrated choral conductor Vance George as we stood at the foot of the stage at Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall.
The 250-voice male chorus towered above us as they took over the entire wall of the performance space, including the several rows of seating set up for audience members who like sitting above and behind the orchestra (or are those the cheap seats?).

(Forgive the namedropping, I had the chilling thrill of doing this -- overlooking an orchestra -- once at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine on my birthday one year, which also happens to be St. Francis of Assisi Day, though we Baptists were never knew who St. Francis of Assisi was. No one was supposed to be seated up in the choir loft, but we arrived late. We were also escorting Ruth Warrick, the movie and soap star of "All…
On Friday, May 16th, the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus held an all-day rehearsal for their Spring concert. One of the songs they sang, of course -- the reason I'm here -- is that they sang a song written by me and Peter Carman called "My Rising Up," which is from the upcoming cantata for peace, "Pantheon Bar & Grill."

I snuck my camera in. I'll tell you all about the concert in my next blog. But for now, here they are in rehearsal:

Review: 'The Last Session' has wit, rhythm - Norwich, CT - Norwich Bulletin

The Norwich Bulletin just published its review of the Norwich production of "The Last Session" and it's not only a total rave, but very well written. After summing up the play, the critic, Sharm Howard, ends with this:
The musical’s strength comes from witty dialogue, fascinating characters and the great rhythm-and-blues sound blasting down to the very souls of the audience. It will knock your socks off, and make you laugh and cry with amazing grace.
I'm so very proud of this cast and thrilled that they were so wonderfully praised.
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Ilyas' Work Of Art.

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San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus at rehearsal.

Tonight I heard something unlike anything I've ever heard before. It was a piece of music so exquisite, so divine, that when I heard it at the all day rehearsal, I had tears streaming down my face.

And it was completely in Arabic.

I didn't understand a single word. But I was transfixed. When they rehearsed the song again, I looked over at the composer, Ilyas Iliya, standing on my left in the aisle. Though the song is sung completely a cappella and consists of long lines of harmony, tightly twisted together (in minor twos) leaping under and over each other in unexpected dashes and turns, he stood there, rigidly tapping out a steady 4/4 pace with his foot.

Part of the promotional appeal of this piece was that it was the first time a gay men's chorus has performed a song in Arabic. Ilyas Iliya is from Lebanon. He is a modest, charming man with deeply kind eyes.

His story is that when he was young, his family immigrated to America. D…

The Marriage Rally.

Yesterday, there was a magnificent rally and press conference here in San Francisco celebrating the California Supreme Court ruling against discrimination aimed at gay couples.

I met with Dr. Kathleen McGuire of the SF Gay Men's Chorus before and we had a brief chat about the cantata. Then, a number of the chorus members gathered to sing at the rally -- and Kathleen invited me to join them.

So, we were gathered outside the meeting room there in the GLBT Center and began rehearsing songs like the Star Spangled Banner -- it was thrilling -- when there was a little lull as we waited. So she asked me if I wanted to hear "My Rising Up." Hell, yes!

Then, she raised her hand to start, looked over at me and said, "Okay, sing the solo."

WOW!

Stumbling around trying to remember the words, I began singing the solo. And when the choir kicked in, we rocked the house. What an exciting experience! The people standing around gave us a huge hand of applause.

Mayor Newsom, who really …

California Supreme Court nullifies gay marriage ban in California.

Watching the news, CNN said that gay marriage was nullified. But then MSNBC said it was the BAN on gay marriage that was nullified.

Hopefully, they'll have an actual gay person on talking about it. It annoys me that when they discuss gay issues, it's always straight people talking about us like we don't exist.

The question will be how the right wing will use this in the election. What they can't do is point to Massachusetts, which also allows gay marriage, and say, "Look how society got destroyed in Massacusetts!"

Songwriter Dottie Rambo Died.

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If you grew up in rural America going to a Baptist church, you grew up listening to a song called "He Looked Beyond My Fault And Saw My Need." It was sung in every church as a "special" by whoever could handle the wide, beautiful melody. That song was written by one of the few top female songwriters to ever write for the church.

Those of us who grew up in church and had little exposure to outside music eventually were startled to discover that that song was also known to some people as "Danny Boy." (Go ahead and read the title again to the last phrase of "Danny Boy").

Her name was Dottie Rambo and she died this past Sunday at the age of 74 after a liftime of singing and touring and writing when her tour bus ran off a highway. No church was complete without the "Dottie Rambo Songbook." The NY Times obit also notes:
With songs recorded by Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Vince Gill and Whitney Houston, and a busy recording and tour…

Norwich was Great!

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Brett Bernardini has put together a terrific production of The Last Session in Norwich and I'm so happy I got to be there to witness it. The actors are superb and the singing is OUTSTANDING.

Kevin Wood brings a whole new vibe to the role as Gideon. He's spontaneous and, since he's a genuine rock artist, he is completely present when he performs, taking unexpected turns and pauses, and musical twists during his solos. One wants to be there with a mic getting every last performance.

I have doctor visits and labs to do this morning, so I don't have time to edit the video or talk about the whole weekend yet.

And tomorrow, I'm off to San Francisco to see the Gay Men's Chorus on Friday.

Busy, busy Steve!

Meanwhile, here's a picture Amy Shapiro took of me out in front of the theatre. You can see the magnificent old court house behind me.

It Takes Two, Baby - Measure for Measure - Opinion - New York Times Blog

One of my favorite things to do is to get with a singer and write songs for (and with) them. In this new entry in the songwriter blog, Measure for Measure, from the NY Times, songwriter Darrell Brown hits it right on the head. I felt like I could have written this myself.

May 3, 2008,  9:22 pm
It Takes Two, BabyBy Darrell Brown

I love people. I could not even begin to count how many times my dear friends have tortured me — lovingly, of course — about my unlimited affection for any and every stranger who comes my way. I have made myself late to many a movie or dinner engagement by getting into impromptu conversations with the valet, the police officer, the mailman, the crossing guard, the paperboy, the street vendor, the truck driver. They could be 4 years old, 98 years old, it doesn’t matter. I have gotten lost in conversations with them. I can’t help it. I just love people. When it comes to writing songs, I’m the same way. I just love co-writing. I can write songs by myself all da…

Announcement: "Zero Hour" in Florida in June.

Jim has been booked to perform "Zero Hour" from June 18 through July 27 at the Broward Stage Door Theatre in Coral Springs, Florida, near Pampano Beach and Ft. Lauderdale.

Order tickets here.

Kathleen Blogs Steve.

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Dr. Kathleen McGuire, the crackerjack artistic director and conductor of the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus mentioned yours truly in her blog.

The thing I feel especially humbled by is that in this Spring concert are works by such distinguished composers as Philip Littell and David Conte (NakedMan), Vance George, the brilliant Eric Lane Barnes, and Ilyas Iliya, who "came to San Francisco from Lebanon in 1991. The performance of this new work, sung in Arabic, Ilyas believes will mark the first time a gay chorus has sung such a work by a gay Middle Eastern composer. The haunting music, using indigenous tonalities, is an a cappella antiphonal piece unlike anything SFGMC has ever performed. Ilyas has attended most rehearsals, working closely with the chorus to assist with pronunciation of the Arabic. The music represents the struggle faced by the gay community in the Middle East today."

Along with Randall Thompson's The Testament of Freedom, with words from letters and wr…

Video: Steve & Jim Do Egypt.

Why the Middle East is such a mess: Jim & Steve visited.

Home Alone.

This next weekend, May 10th, will be the gala opening of the brand, spanking new production of The Last Session, directed by Brett Bernardini and starring Kevin Wood.

They began previews already and I'm so excited to see what Brett has done. In conversation by phone, he expressed so much enthusiasm and energy, he was almost ridiculously beside himself. I don't know the rest of the cast, so I cannot speak for them, but I do know that it will be a monumental pleasure to hear Kevin Wood sing my songs. His voice is just achingly beautiful.

Jim has been in Boston this weekend doing Zero Hour. So, I've been home alone and I hate it. I thought it would be fun. You know, get naked, run through the house, throw everything down and leave it there, watch TV shows Jim hates.

And that was fun for about an hour.

So, I spent time focusing on music scoring and editing some video, which will be ready soon. The problem with being home alone is that I lose track of time. I forget when it's t…

Random.

I used to live next to a house full of kids with Downs Syndrome.

They used to sit with their arms wrapped around each other.

Sometimes I meet someone new and that's how I want to sit and talk with them.

But that's not how the world works.

In the world, you sit in chairs.

Luxor temple

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Luxor temple. The enormity of the temple at Luxor is awe-inducing. To think it all used to be below ground, buried in years of mud and sand.

Steve in Norwich.

I will be in Norwich from May 9 - May 12 for the gala opening of The Last Session. I hear they are planning a lot of surprises.