BRIEF BLOG INTRO:
I'm a man on a mission. A mission to convince you that life is worth living, no matter how many obstacles are placed in your way. And that you can accomplish great things if you just push ahead and don't let anyone tell you no.

I'm a singer/songwriter and actor from Texas "Living in the Bonus Round" in New York City-- which is my way of describing how I feel having cheated death. (In a game show, the Bonus Round is where time speeds up and the prizes are better.) Accepting my death changed me. Now, I'm consuming life as quickly and as fully as I can, while still taking time to breathe and appreciate every single day as an utter miracle.

Last year, I turned 60 and I had a set of goals, all of which came true, including composing -- and performing in -- a Mass, recording a solo album (selling 10s of copies), headlining to a sold out house at a major night club in New York City and playing the lead role in a staged reading of a play not written by myself. I update a few times a month these days, and I don't spam. So it's easier to keep up with me by following by Email. When this blog began, it was to track my death. I'm told it was the first AIDS blog. You can start at the gruesome beginning if you want. Or just jump in and maybe we can learn some life lessons together. Welcome to the Bonus Round. I'm Steve [SHACK-lin] and we're just getting started.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

ON BREAK UNTIL JANUARY 10

This blog will be on break until January 10th.

Thank you for reading, responding and watching my videos. If you're new to the blog, be sure to check out my youtube site. You'll find lots of things to watch.

If you're interesting in New World Waking, go here and watch the playlist of all the videos of the rehearsals and events leading up to the performance, which happened on Dec. 1st.

Happy holidays to you.

Monday, December 15, 2008

"Holy Dirt" with Piper Laurie & SFGMC

This is the centerpiece song in "New World Waking!" with special guest, Piper Laurie, reading some special text. San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus in rehearsal on Dec. 1, 2008.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

"William's Song" in rehearsal.

Look! I finally figured out how to render and then upload something in wide screen! Now I wish I could go back and replace all my videos to make them look like this.



I also found Blogger Busters and learned how to widen this column by altering the java code so that it would fit. I feel so geeky this week.

Musings, Plans for the Future.

I think I've finally come down from Dec. 1st. The hard cold reality of having a big event, such as we had at Davies Symphony Hall (I love saying that), is that when it's over, it's really over. No matter how long it might linger in the mind, it all went too fast. Kathleen had barely raised her baton before it was over. Did they applaud? I don't even remember.

Happily, I knew this going in. I was prepared for it, emotionally. That's why I celebrated all the days leading up to it -- the anticipation is so energizing and uplifting. But now, the letdown. I can't go back and recreate what happened that night. It's in the past.

Still, there is much to look forward to.

For people in San Francisco who might have missed it, the Chorus is going to be performing an abridged version of "New World Waking" for the annual "Home for the Holidays" concert on Dec. 24. If you're in town, be sure to go.

Also, that night, if things go according to schedule, the live recording of "New World Waking" in its entirety will be released as a part of the two-disc package of the best commissions and music from the 30th anniversary season. I'm totally on pins and needles. Kathleen said the sound of the recording is fantastic.

Not only that, but Kathleen and I will be preparing the full score so that other choruses and orchestras can perform it -- and not just gay choruses. It's entirely appropriate for high schools, colleges and universities. Any musical directors reading this please feel free to contact me. The piece is totally scalable to any size group.

I've also been talking to some local musicians here, all part of the Kulak's Woodshed family of musicians, songwriters and singers, about forming a big multi-voice sprawling rock band to perform New World Waking in local churches and theatres (two of which have already told me they want it).

It's great that NWW was performed by a big orchestra and chorus. But it doesn't NEED to be performed that way. As I told someone asking me about it, I could literally sit and do the piece all my myself if I had to, or if someone asked me to. (I'd just prefer to have all those harmonies).

So, I can see doing this with a small band and a few singers. The idea is still in the "making it up as I go along" stage -- please don't assault me with questions asking for details -- but it's a matter of putting everyone together, teaching them the music and watching it unfold. The image I have in my mind is like a big "Mad Dogs & Englishmen" type of group with moms, dads, kids, dogs -- whoever wants to join in. Do it as a benefit.

I've gotten some very enthusiastic responses from several terrific musicians and singers who told they're totally in. The Woodshed Family Band! And I've gotten offers from a couple of venues wanting to host it. All from just wondering out loud.

So, who knows. Dreaming is fun. And the best part about dreaming this stuff up is that it's all very possible.

Hey, I just felt something. What is it? It's tugging at my insides. It feels good. Wait. I know. How did I start this email? I was talking about how December 1st is over. I was hinting at the natural "let-down" one feels after a big night is finished and done. But now I'm feeling something else.

Ah, yes. It's back.

The sweet tug of anticipation. Now, that didn't take long, did it?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Thursday Night at Kulak's Vlog Pt. 2



A surprise! A man wants to propose during the show tonight. And Paul tells us more about the creation of Kulak's Woodshed.

The Big Moon


We had overcast skies, but my friend Doug Watt took this picture. Last night the moon was epic close to the earth. As a SF lover, stuff like this always feels spooky and wonderful. And they say the tides were an inch higher. Imagine how spooky it was back at the dawn of civilization when the moon was the teevee.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Best Attendance Ever.

One of my brothers oversees a large department in a government office in a Southern state. He sent me a note regarding yesterday's "Call In Gay" Day, where some online activists had sought for gay people to "Call in gay" and take the day off, donating the time to charity. The idea was to show visibility so that they could become personalized to friends and co-workers.

"Went to my management staff and asked who called in sick today. I figured it would be a good way of knowing, for sure, who's gay."


[He was joking, btw.]

"We were at 100%. Probably first time ever. Guess no one wanted to be suspected."

That kinda tells you everything you need to know. It would be one thing if everyone had ignored the call and caused barely a ripple. It's quite another when everyone takes it as a cue to show up. I wonder how many straight people who otherwise might have had to call in sick, due to a cold or the flu or something, came to work anyway out of fear of being suspected of being gay?

Best attendance ever.

Jason & Jason & Rachel.



This is one of my adopted sons, Jason. He and his partner, whose name is also Jason just celebrated their 10th anniversary. They got married in their backyard. And Jim and I performed the ceremony under a tent with all their friends. (Jim got a minister license off the Internet. I played piano and sang. And no, we haven't started up a gay marriage business and yes, we did it because they asked us to and they are part of our family and we love them).

And it wasn't legal.

The cops didn't rush in, but there is a time in our nation's history when that would have happened.

There is a time in our nation's history when that little gathering of friends -- if it had happened at all, and it wouldn't have -- would have been raided by cops and the people hauled off to jail.

I want you to look at these renegade civilization killers:

They recently this year, they quietly celebrated their 10th.

That "time" that I mentioned when the cops would have raided us? It was during my lifetime -- and in many places of "civilization" on this globe, these people would not only be arrested, they'd be beaten. And the two Jasons would be hanged.

Watching Jason interact with Rachel is one of my greatest pleasures because someday Jason would like to be a daddy. And somewhere out there is a kid who really needs a daddy. And it would be one really well-loved kid.

But if the Jasons lived in my home state right now, that adoption would be illegal due to a recent popular vote.

And if they lived in Iran or Saudi Arabia, or in the America that used to be, they would be dead.

In the movie, MILK, which I urge every reader to see, it opens with actual newsreel footage of gay men being rounded up like criminals and hauled off to jail for doing nothing more than hanging out together.

That happened even in New York and San Francisco during my lifetime.

Hey, Jason! I just got a new idea for your web series. You and Rachel remaking "The Birdman of Alcatraz!"

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Three More Portraits.

I've been looking over the pictures taken down at Davies Symphony Hall. I've never really sat for this kind of session, where we just went all over the place and posed and got all artsy with a photographer with really good lenses.

It's also a very important part of being taken seriously as a professional. When someone asks you for one, whether for press or a program, it's not a good idea to start tossing snapshots at them that you took yourself out on the front porch.

Anyway, I've finally had to chance to just sit and look at these. I think most of them would work as an 8 x 10. They all have different character. This one makes me look innocent.


This one's slightly rakish, maybe.

Colleen, the photographer liked this one:

Sing Along to "My Thanksgiving Prayer"!



Sing along to this rehearsal video of the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus performing "My Thanksgiving Prayer" with the Community Women's Orchestra -- as part of New World Waking! Songs on the Road to Peace, Inspired by John Lennon's Piano. Lyrics by Peter J. Carman. Music by Steve Schalchlin. Arranged, orchestrated and conducted by Dr. Kathleen C. McGuire.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Prologue with Orchestra.

If you want to get a feeling for how beautiful the orchestrations were for New World Waking, check out the rehearsal video I did for the "Prologue," which I've documented from the first rehearsal we heard Dan O'Leary doing it for the chorus. This is taken with my camcorder.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

More Pics From San Francisco.

So, what's a country boy like me doing in a place like this? SELLING IT OUT! (Okay, maybe it was the chorus that sold it out, but I can dream, can't I?


The New World Waking Playlist

I've set up a YouTube New World Waking playlist. Meaning that if you click on the video below, it will play all the videos related to New World Waking. This is my first time to fool around with playists, and I finally figured out how to put them in the order I want them..

I haven't fooled around with playists yet at YouTube, but now that I've discovered them, I'm going to be doing a lot more. I love having a new toy. Try it out and tell me if it works.



Thursday, December 04, 2008

SF Bay Times calls New World Waking "powerful."

In the first post concert review, the Bay Area Times describes the experience of New World Waking.

Bringing Down the House
By Sister Dana Van Iquity
Published: December 4, 2008



On December 1, World AIDS Day, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus (SFGMC) presented their pearl anniversary concert featuring Jennifer Holliday, Piper Laurie and Kim Kuzma. The Community Women’s Orchestra provided the music, along with pianist Thaddeus Pinkston. Each chorister wore his red sequined ribbon along with strings of pearls in commemoration of World AIDS Day and of their XXX year of singing. Mayor Gavin Newsom had pronounced SFGMC WEEK (not the usual Day that he typically proclaims, but the whole week). The chorus was under the skilled baton of Dr. Kathleen McGuire, SFGMC artistic director. That night they recorded the concert to be available as a CD in a month. If you missed the live show, at least you can enjoy the music; and if you were there, you no doubt will want to purchase the CD, which I will be reviewing as soon as it drops.

Act I began with the extremely emotional, powerful piece, New World Waking: Songs on the Road to Peace, Inspired by John Lennon’s Piano —- the concept, music and lyrics by Steve Schalchlin. “Manifesto,” sung by the Chorus, told us religion and politics are failing to provide role models of peace; but music can cross all boundaries, languages and creeds. “Therefore we journey to find a song of perfect peace.” Soloist Dan O’Leary san7g of a new world waking. We were on a search for a new world anthem of peace. “Part I: Violence at Home” included “Gabi’s Song: Will It Always Be Like This?”

with a stunning solo by Stephen Camarata telling the horrific story of the violence of bullying — based on the true story of Gabi Clayton and her son Bill, who committed suicide after a gay bashing. “Billy Tipton’s Song: Brilliant Masquerade” was a tale of the violence of transphobia and the closet. This jazzy beat piece sang of the life of jazz sax player Billy Tipton, who nobody knew was “born female” until his autopsy. “Joe’s Song: Dead Inside” was a minor-key dirge about the violence of self hatred and cynicism, inspired by the bloggings of Joe. My. God. The last two pieces featured the trio of Ray Perez, Frank Federico and Sanford Smith.

“Part 2: Violence in the World” opened with “The Politician’s Song,” a scornful look at such evil, fascistic dictators as Hitler, Mussolini and Franco — telling of their horrific genocides and ending up by comparisons to the Halliburton warmongers. The music and choreography ironically mimicked the tango, with chorus guys switching partners back and forth. “Song of the Reluctant Soldier: I Enter This Battle Gravely” stated that one should go into battle as if going to a funeral. Soloists Kenyon DeVault, Edward Maravilla and Mike Joyce captured the spirit that “My enemies aren’t demons; they’re human just like me,” as the Chorus sang and kept turning their backs on one another. “The Media’s Song: War by Default” was a charge against news writers conning the public into war. The Chorus held up newspapers, pretending to read the latest yellow journalism piece as soloist John J. Sims sang of “media that’s hungry for a story” and “a chicken-hawk who never held a rifle, but sends our sons and daughters off to war.” The fourth number, “Song of Religious Violence: Holy Dirt,” was introduced by actress Piper Laurie (you may remember her as the scary religious fanatic in the movie Carrie). Part of her impressive monologue posed a thought: “Imagine what would happen if America’s Christianity took the Martin Luther King’s side instead of the TV evangelists’ side.” Laurie concluded, “Nonviolence resistance has never failed.”

“Part 3: Awakening Suite” began with soloist Bob Connett and the Chorus singing a gospel-like “Lazarus Come Out,” an awakening in the form of a song of thanks to caregivers, the restorers of life: “Time to come out into the light of day.” The Chorus sang “William’s Song,” in which it became clear there’s always a nonviolent way to fight back, and sometimes it takes a mom. It was based on the true story of William Wagner and his mother, Carolyn Wagner, who sued an Arkansas school for allowing five fag-bashers to jump her gay son with no official redress. The chorus repeated over and over: “Tell me, why does it take five great big guys to beat up one little queer?” The good news? Mom won the case and there was complete restitution. “My Thanksgiving Prayer” was simply a prayer for peace in a troubled land. “Epilogue” brought the dream (that soloist O’Leary reprised) to a conclusion that “there is a new world waking within my heart now.” The final song of Act I was the classic “My Rising Up” sung by the inimitable Jennifer Holliday in belt-out beatific: “If I start to turn away and fall into the deepest night, shadows will turn light as day, ‘cause darkness cannot fight the light.”

Video Blog: Driving to San Francisco

"You sound angry online, but with your music connected..."

I have a friend named Chris. He and his wife, Claudine, have become like family to Jim and me. She wore a fabulous red dress and called me her vampire lover. (Okay, now I get Twilight. It's the straight version of "Will and Grace".)

Chris went with a few of us over to Martuni's after the event. Kim Kuzma was there. Oh, my god. Kim Kuzma. What a voice on this woman. It was my first time to meet her or hear her. Just wow. We talked about doing something together for the Upright Cabaret here in Los Angeles.

Oh, I forgot to mention. Big Voice is coming to Indio Center for the Performing Arts near Palm Springs. Mid-January.

I don't have details yet. It's the same place where Jim did Zero.

Anyway, we're standing out in front of Martuni's. The whole night felt electric. Claudine looked fabulous. And he said, "You know, you actually have very angry lyrics and online you sometimes sound angry. But the music is so opposite to that, that it comes out making me feel good. "

He continued, "I noticed this in Big Voice. But I thought maybe it was just because it was in a small venue and it was intimate. But, no, it's something in your music."

Cool!! I have angry lyrics!! Who knew? (I'm the gay James Dean. Oh, wait.) I thought I had a reputation as this mushy sickly sweet guy. Sickly sweet! Get it!? I kill me.

Well, we certainly live in an angry culture. It's like we're cycling through the stages of some great civilizational catharsis.

I don't feel angry or maybe I do. Of course I feel angry. But, you know, usually what people are angry about is not what they're really angry about. True anger resides in the hidden corners.

I do feel like anger is being treated as if it were a serious rational way of thinking, though. Just because it's great theatre doesn't mean it's wise.

When you're angry, you do and say the most stupid things in your life. It's beyond my comprehension that people celebrate anger. We love hearing someone get told off.

I love Judge Judy. She tells you off!

She gets angry!

Maybe all animals are angry. The point isn't whether we or anyone else is angry. The point is what we do about it. I like laughing at it.

I think anger isn't healthy until it can laugh at itself.

Anger without humor goes against the nature of nature/God/common sense, IMO. And I put it in religious terms because there are people of faith who fetishize anger as a something sacred.

Fine, but for me it's a barometer. If we aren't laughing together, we are not connecting.

And if we are not connecting, then we are part of the problem.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Joe.My.God. reports on New World Waking.

My friend, Joe Jervis, who writes one of the top gay oriented blogs, was the inspiration for one of songs in New World Waking. It's called "Dead Inside." His most recent blog post contains his own report of the night. He took this great picture of me outside the venue.


It was thrilling for me that he flew out from New York and was able to be in the show. He took a wonderful picture of Jim and me.

He says:
But like many in the audience, I lost it during the two songs dedicated to two mothers, Gabi Clayton and Carolyn Wagner, whose sons were the victims of anti-gay violence. Together they founded Families Against Hate and were in the audience and recognized from the stage, to many tears. Here's Steve's backstage video of the women meeting the chorus members. There's a few laughs in the clip, but you should get a hanky.

What Joe doesn't know is that Carolyn has been struggling with a lot of health problems. She is battling cancer and, for a very long time has been in the hospital and on intense medication, barely able to speak. We didn't even know if she would make it.

But it was the chorus members themselves who got them there. They pulled together frequent flier mileage and money. It was so amazing. More later!

AIDS Food Pantry in Dallas Needs Help.

This is something I just received. Since I lived in Dallas, and came out in Dallas, I wanted to post this for readers who might want to help them out.
Resource Center of Dallas' (RCD) AIDS Food Pantry is being forced to move from their location after almost 25 years. Many of their clients do not even have the money to take the bus to get their groceries now, so their fear is where the pantry will move to. Even with an end of January extension given, RCD says donations are coming in slower than expected and the initial $25,000 moving budget is expected to increase. The current 20 year old refrigeration equipment will not be able to make the move to a new location, according to an assessment from a refrigeration expert, forcing the pantry to buy a replacement. And once the moving expenses are met, additional money will be needed to buy food for the Center's clients during this time of year. From November through January, the Center traditionally sees an overall 30% increase in food needs with their 2,456 clients of the food programs – and those numbers were in better economic times.

PLEASE donate TODAY. No gift or help is too small.
Online: https://npo.networkforgood.org/Donate/Donate.aspx?npoSubscriptionId=1000661&code=HLM09

Or you can send your donations to:
Resource Center of Dallas
2701 Reagan Street
PO Box 190869
Dallas TX 75219-0869
(214) 528-0144


A personal visit to visit the pantry allowed me to see firsthand the work they are doing. The visit was full of emotions. A long line of people waiting outside a backroom door from a parking lot, hidden from the public, each with smiles on their face, talking with each other and the pantry employees, but I could not help but focus on the pain they must be masking. Each waited their turn to walk through a very small modest corner-grocery-store atmosphere, complete with small two-tier shopping carts. People bumped into each other - only about a 12 people maximum at a time are allowed in the entire room.

A plaque proudly hangs top center commerating 1989, the date this small 4 door refrigerated/freezer was presented as a gift to the Pantry. Milk and some cold items such as small desserts, burritos and individual items are available but there is not enough room to house frozen items contributed. So those meals are now distributed through another program (Hot Meals) through RCD, who started this food pantry almost 25 years ago. A freestanding 2 door refrigerator held some fresh deli items donated by local markets, but due to limited space these items are on a first come first serve basis, and the small case was almost empty just in the short time I was there.

A supervisor, who has worked for the pantry 6 years, told me how contributions are used and how she is able to leverage financial donations through the local food bank compared to the average spending of a person going to a local grocery. If I, as an individual, purchased a can of vegetables that cost a dollar, she can use that same dollar with the local food bank at a comparable rate of .14 per can to my 1.00, buying 7 cans of vegetables to my one. Grocery stores have been incredible with their donations, but it appears only to be chains within their immediate area.

The hot meals program, also run through Resource Center of Dallas, was at one time receiving annual funding from the Ryan White Care Act program however these federal funds have been cut, eliminating the $250,000 federal funding which was the majority of their annual budget over the last 18 months. This budget cut is jeapordizing stand alone food programs used to feed many of the same clients of the food pantry, a daily hot nutritious meal. In order to qualify for the pantry and hot meals program, people must meet a poverty level of 300% below the national level. 300% below!

When asked if items were given for traditional Thanksgiving dinners, the answer was more heartbreaking. With funding less than a shoestring-budget people, who in years past had received small turkeys and trimmings, would this year be receiving a small canned ham, store price of $7. The next time you shop, please go look at how small a $7 canned ham is.

Money is tight for everyone with the turn of our national economical state. As I write this, there is a segment on CNN talking to the founder of an Atlanta food bank echoing this sentiment for mainstream food banks across the nation. Donations are down and the need is increasing. His food bank is local to Atlanta, and not specific to this even smaller group of a forgotten people.

We must make sure that those in need in our community are taken care of.

PLEASE donate TODAY. No gift or help is too small.
Online: https://npo.networkforgood.org/Donate/Donate.aspx?npoSubscriptionId=1000661&code=HLM09

Or you can send your donations to:
Resource Center of Dallas
2701 Reagan Street
PO Box 190869
Dallas TX 75219-0869
(214) 528-0144




Join The Impact-Dallas' Food & Christmas Card Drive has officially begun. We need you NOW! Want to talk equality? Let your heart speak for you!

1. Before December 10th, while you're making out your Christmas or Holiday cards, please send a very special one to our friends at the AIDS Food Pantry and be sure to include a nice crisp $20. This year the food pantry is trying to find a new home plus find funds to meet this already increasing time of year.

Read why this Food Pantry was selected by us to support during this Food Drive: http://jointheimpact.wetpaint..com/page/Dallas

There are over 1000 who benefit from this Food Pantry alone, and 2456 in the 2 programs through Resource Center of Dallas (RCD). They need money to help buy food. Let's see if we can't send enough Christmas cards with our donations so EVERY person receives a heartfelt message from us!

2. Resource Center of Dallas/Food Pantry

2701 Reagan Street

PO Box 190869

Dallas TX 75219-0869

Be sure to sign your card "With love, From , JTI-Dallas

3. But wait! Now please reach out to as many people as you can. Tell your friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, high schools colleges and universities, florists, bakers, mechanics, professors, children's teachers and schools. Print or copy/paste this page and post/email/hand it out. Can't afford much? Your voice could be worth $20 + the number of people you tell! So use it!

Read their story here from our Dallas Team. http://jointheimpact.wetpaint.com/page/Dallas

BahHumBug but still want to spend your dough? Click here: https://npo.networkforgood.org/Donate/Donate.aspx?npoSubscriptionId=1000661&code=HLM09


More Photos at Bev's Blog.

We had a sold out house at Davies Symphony Hall.

Bev blogged her night at New World Waking. More photos there. And I have new video coming soon. If you don't know who Gabi and Carolyn (pictured at her blog) are, just wait.

Just. Wait.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

My new portrait.

Steve Schalchlin
I posted a photo by my friend, Colleen Mullins, who is a very noted photographer. She also took this portrait. I'll be posting more photos soon.

"So, how did it go?"

Steve Schalchlin at Davies Symphony Hall.Photo by Colleen Mullins.
From the stage of Davies Symphony Hall.

I've had so many emails from people asking me how it went last night.

I'll try to find words, but now I know why people take drugs. The adrenalin coursing through my body last night had me floating about six feet above the floor and I couldn't feel anything the whole night.

I was literally numb. I sat there listening to the music, but not hearing it. It was scary and frightening. I tried to relax, but then I'd look down and see that I was pitched forward in my seat, tense and knotted up.

It was happening on that massive stage with that huge chorus and the 50 piece orchestra, but I was listening to the audience. Let me tell you what I did NOT hear. I did not hear throat clearing. I did not hear coughing.

This is a very good sign.

What I did see were tear-streaked faces. And intense faces, actually listening. I looked up and behind me at this magnificent room and saw the seats packed to the ceiling. Before the show, they had to announce a 10 minute wait because the line was streaming out the doors into the street.

In my pre-concert chat, my mind went totally blank. I think I was coherent. But that's about all, just trying to hit the bullet points I had been rehearsing in my mind. Not too many people were there for that part, which is about what I expected. Few people want to sit and listen to someone talk about something they haven't yet heard.

Photo by Bev Sykes of the pre-concert chat.

The chorus was on FIRE. My favorite enjoyable moment of the night, aside from Piper and Jennifer, was "War By Default." Probably because it was so unexpectedly fun, yet serious. And the words!

These songs were done in the context of a serious, chorus/orchestral/tuxedo event, the lyrics sounded so contemporary -- even edgy. I have never thought of myself that way. In the rock world, I never fit in that well. But it doesn't mean that that's not who I am.

I don't think choruses are used to this particular kind of social commentary. Not like this. Words like "start a blog and do a dance and smoke another joint." And "Why does it take five great big guys to beat up one little queer." A chorus member mentioned how he loved singing, "So she went out on the Internet" and, discussing violence, "We watch it like football game and wait for it on CNN / Cuz winning's somehow everything and they'll rerun it all again."

The whole piece skewed really young. And yet the philosophical themes are mature and complex. Just hearing Piper Laurie say, "Imagine if America's Christianity came from the Martin Luther King side of the family instead of the TV evangelist side. Where the TV evangelist Gandhi?" from "Holy Dirt," another song that sustained long applause.

In many ways, there was so much for the audience to take in, I think they were still analyzing it as it ended. New World Waking, I was told, hit some people like a sledge hammer.

I've poured nearly 8 years of my life into this piece.

I almost couldn't enjoy it. Seriously. Now I know why writers go insane. In my mind, instead of just enjoying the concert, I was thinking, "Okay... is ANYONE GETTING THIS?? DOES IT REMOTELY MAKE ANY SENSE???"

I didn't know. I couldn't know. It made sense to me, but it was too overwhelming.

The night was too overwhelming.

In act two, they brought out a local critic and tv personality, Jan Wahl, who just stopped the proceedings and said, "I think we just witnessed the birth of a new Cole Porter and Gershwin and Jerry Herman and Stephen Sondheim all rolled up into one." And she had me stand. And the audience cheered me.

But I couldn't absorb it.

Yeah, Jan tends to get hyperbolic and she's a friend, so I took all that with a grain of salt. It was really kind of her to say those things, and I'm reporting it because it did happen, but I know better. 10 years ago I might have wanted to believe it. I might have even tried to believe it. But I'm older now.

I know better. Yes, reader. I really do.

I also know that our car needs another $1000 of work on it because the transmission blew out. And I have no idea where we're going to find it.

That's the reality of a "famous" composer. I stand in a concert hall and take a bow, and the next day, I'm sorting through every last credit card looking for a way to get home.

Welcome to show biz.

Oh, and here's Bev's video from the event:

Monday, December 01, 2008

Moscone/Milk Memorial 2008


A friend sent me this saying, "You're writing the soundtrack for our lives."

The opening song on this video is "My Thanksgiving Prayer." It's the memorial on the steps of City Hall followed by a march to Castro Street. This past Friday.

Who Can Sleep?

I was awake at 4 am. And 5 am. And 6 am.

At 7 am, I had to take our car across the street to the Ford dealership because we got here with a leak (after having just had it serviced). When the guy behind the counter asked me why I was here, I just blurted out (no doubt sounding like a crazy man), "THEY'RE SINGING AND PLAYING MY MUSIC AT DAVIES SYMPHONY HALL TONIGHT!!

The handsome guy behind the counter got a big smile on his face and told me he played French Horn and that he was very happy for me.

Yesterday morning, after walking around the City Hall plaza, I wandered over to MCC SF for the morning worship service. Got there early during the choir rehearsal. Kathleen was there singing. My friend, Stephanie, was musical directing.

I was buzzing from my walkabout and barely able to sit.

And then they started singing "Seasons of Love" from RENT.

"Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes" -- "How do you measure a year in the life?" And tears just started gushing from my eyes. I thought about my beloved Dick Remley who died -- how long ago? Has it been seven years? I thought about a new friend of mine named Anne whose husband died suddenly, unexpected from cancer just a couple of days ago, leaving six children -- and they didn't even know he was sick. A week ago he was on a trip and today he's gone.

This song reminds me so vividly that we have to grab every single second of life and live it to the fullest. That none of us, whether we have AIDS or think we think we have years, that it can be taken from us without warning.

On this day, World AIDS Day, we think of AIDS and we try to reach out to people and educate them about this disease. But, really, we should also use it to be reminded that there are no guarantees in this life -- and that the people who surround us are really the ones who give us measure of the value of every moment.

After the emotional church service in a place that can only be called Ground Zero for the AIDS Holocaust, we were reminded that during the height of the worst part of the crisis, there were so many people dying, they just gave up on having a memorial service for any single person, but instead, resorted to a weekly "group memorial service."

I want everyone reading this to imagine your own community or church facing this kind of devastation, where so many of your friends were dying so quickly, you couldn't keep up with the lists.

Rev. Neil Thomas in LA a few weeks ago said that during this period, he become known at the death minister. He was attending or running a funeral almost every single day, sometimes three or four a day. Please try to imagine rushing from one funeral to the next, barely able to keep up.

(He also said that this past year he became known as the marriage minister as gay and lesbian couples rushed to get married -- at least, sadly, until this past election.)

After the service, Kathleen and I went to lunch and spent a couple of hours just talking about New World Waking and the extraordinary way in which it all came together. We celebrated together and talked about the songs and it was really fun because only the two of us know what it took to bring this together.

Kathleen is not someone who just puts notes on a page. She's a true creative artist whose musical education far exceeds mine. (I joked with her that tonight I expected her to give the audience a full music theory analysis of the chords.)

She has lived with these songs and believes in them as fully and as deeply as I do. From the first day I sat with her at that little out of tune piano, to the moment she said, "I have chills running up and down my arms" to the moment she introduced it to the SFGMC Board, to the night she introduced the music to the chorus and then the orchestra.

We talked about the day Teddy Witherington, the chorus Executive Director, called me and suggested not calling it a cantata -- "sounds too boring" -- and the day we settled on the name New World Waking. (It had been called, temporarily, Pantheon Bar & Grill).

She told me how amazing it was to watch the chorus when they first rehearsed with the orchestra.

Oh, man. I could on and on. And I will, but it's time for breakfast and my heart is so full, I'm all but exploding.