The Bay Area Rainbow Symphony's inspirational performance "A Tenor in Winter: Benefit Concert & World Premiere" on Jan. 30 was a collaboration with the Calvary Presbyterian Church’s ConcertConnect program to benefit Larkin Street Youth Services and the Symphony's drum drive for timpani and percussion.
Almost every seat at the Upper Fillmore church was filled, and the acoustics and sound equipment were finely tuned. The musicians are paid at these concerts, but on Sunday night they generously volunteered their earnings to raise money.
The evening’s featured performer was extraordinary tenor Brian Thorsett, who was given quite a workout as he sang almost continuously with different configurations of the musicians. Thorsett’s carefully enunciated and vivid singing in English and German is in great demand all over the U.S. and in Europe, and he will be on stage in the near future at San Francisco’s Davies Hall.
The Rainbow Symphony’s prime directive is to challenge stereotypes about LGBT performing artists, composers, and instrumentalists, and to increase visibility. The Rainbow Symphony is also open to non-LGBT members who seek to express themselves musically, and like the players of the Gay Softball League, a sizable number of the musicians are bisexual or straight.
A leading composer of the evening was Franz Schubert, whose music is the height of Germanic Romanticism. Recent research suggests that he was gay and that he dedicated romantic songs to male musician friends. One of the most beautiful moments of the evening occurred when a lyrical text of Schubert’s music was read by flutist David Latulippe:
Oh Lovely Art, in how many grey hours,
When life’s fierce orbit ensnared me,
Have you kindled my heart to warm love,
Carried me away into a better world!
How often has a sigh escaping from your harp,
A sweet, sacred chord of yours
Opened up for me the heaven of better times,
Oh lovely Art, for that I thank you!
The other leading composer was David Conte, who was at the concert to receive appreciative applause and a floral tribute for the world premiere of his "Yeats Songs" — a musical setting of three W.B. Yeats poems for tenor and string quartet.
The evening’s music was dominated by the violins and a viola, but the marvelous cellos and wind instruments also made strong tonal statements.
Larkin Street’s Alexandra Horton spoke eloquently about how her agency’s youth service programs get at-risk and homeless youth off the streets, and she thanked the audience for their help.
The Rainbow Symphony’s next concert is on March 26 and their website is www.bars-sf.org.