Thursday, February 04, 2010

William's Song and The End of a Book.

I am preparing a blog entry about Sunday, the last day of Zero Hour at St. Clement's, but so much happened on that day, I haven't quite grasped it all. I don't know where to start the story. But I'm working on it.

We're also taking a big fat rest. I haven't let him out of the bed for two days unless absolutely necessary.

Zero Hour starts back up again in late February. He has a couple of weeks to just lie there with his cat and his laptop and his game shows, and not go up and down steps. God bless St. Clement's, but there are a lot of steps there. And there are a lot of steps going down into subways, apartments, etc.

Speaking of St. Clement's, I feel connected to the place, and to the people there. Zero Hour might be moving to a different venue, but Dan and Kevin will remain connected to the show, which means St. Clement's. And, in case you want to know, the Sunday morning concert of New World Waking as a "musical sermon" was terrific. We all remembered our words and notes and everything.

My darling Don Myers grabbed my camera and taped it for me. Jeramy sang! (His fan club is getting bigger than mine.) John Fitzgerald, I almost terrified. I had listed "My Thanksgiving Prayer" on the program and hadn't informed him that he would be doing it with me. We were so focused on getting "I Enter This Battle Gravely" arranged on the fly.

Another added emotional sting happened when I sang "William's Song." Carolyn Wagner is ill, and the song is really all about her. But I wasn't so much sad, as rejoicing. Simultaneously, across the country, the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus was singing at sold-out out houses in conservative cities.

[I'm told a video has been made. I can't wait to hear the crowd's reception.]

I phoned Carolyn after hearing from Gabi that she was calling for me. Carolyn's deep Arkansas accent, which reminds me of my family and home, was weak. She took breaths between sentences.

"Stayve," she said, addressing me. That's Arkansas for Steve. "I'll never forget the concert in San Francisco at that big place. I was in high cotton." (The chorus flew her in.)

"You know, I'm a real hillbilly. My family were all mountain people. We told our stories through song. That's how we handed down our history. The fact that you've told our story this way... I don't know what to say."

One of the chorus members, just last week, wrote me because he was concerned about the weirdly upbeat, almost celebratory tone of a song about gay bashing.

> As I have been listening to and rehearsing William's Song for our concerts
> this weekend, I have been struggling with the seeming disconnect between
> terribly disturbing topic of the song, gay bashing, and the happy and
> style of the music and choreography. I think perhaps as a newer member of
> the chorus I may have missed some context there, either from the story or
> the musical context of a larger production it was taken from. Could you
> please give me, and perhaps others, some more information about this?

I wrote this note (edited) which they read aloud to the chorus.
I'm really happy you asked Kathleen about this, because I definitely
want you to be able to sing the song with full conviction. And, for
the record, you're not the first to ask me this question.

It would be easy to take a story like this and make dark, depressing
music, not that I think you're making that suggestion.

But, I purposely set this song with this music because William's Song
is, ultimately, about a victory over violence and hate. It's a
celebration of how this tragic story was turned into a victory by a
determined mother.

Also, by rejoicing rather than mourning, it's also a little bit of a
"*** you" to the homophobes, saying, "You can try to knock us down,
but we'll only get up stronger, we'll throw your hate words back in
your face, and we'll dance on your ugly aspirations."

I hope you don't think I'm being flip when I tell you all this in this
way. But that's what I feel when I sing it. It's a testament to our
power that they cannot knock us down. They cannot pretend to be
stronger than we are.

So, sing the victory. Sing the celebration of how one mother can
change an entire school district by simply standing up for her kid and
refusing to take no for an answer.

I should tell you, by the way, that Carolyn Wagner is dangerously ill. So, enjoy
her courage and celebrate her tenacity and her love for her boy
through this song.

It might seem like a strange way to deal with violence, but that's
what music and art are all about -- empowering us to overcome great
obstacles. And William's Song is a dance, a celebration and a victory.

Does that makes sense to you?
My email makes the song a bit more harsh than I intend, but the emotions are all there and they are real. Haven't you ever just wanted to stand up and shake your fist at injustice? If you're going to feel anger about something, better to express that anger through music. I'm probably walking a fine line between what Soul Force guidelines allow, but it's not my job, artistically, to censor the truth.

And now I'm a little off-track from the point of this email. It's to let you know that we're here, we're well, we're resting, and I have a lot of story to tell. So, I'm going to take a little time to tell it.

But I can say that at our little gathering after the last matinee in the parish hall, where we toasted each other and celebrated the end of the first stage of our New York run, we were also thankful that we had come through it with very little drama behind the stage, a lot of great drama on the stage.

New friendships have been forged that seem like they're going to last. A lot of good will and love has been generated along with an armload of great reviews and we have great hope, and developing plans, for the future.

I suppose if this were the old diary, I'd call this is the end of a book. I'd also be trying to think of a name for the new one. But it's hard to name the future. At the present moment, I'd call it A Time To Rest.

And so we will.

But I also have a lot of video to process, a lot of music to sort through, and I have a big announcement which will have to wait.

But you might want to circle WEDNESDAY, June 23**** on your calendars. I promise something great and wonderful.


1 comment:

Gabi Clayton said...

Thank you Steve (((HUGS))) to you and Jim.

So it's not the end of the book, pal, it's just the start of side [?]. :-)

Walk With Me - Tour Guides Protest - 08 07 21

I walked into a protest! But who? I didn't know, so I followed them around until I found out. It's the "live" tour guides ...