Bridges, an emotional concert with the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus and three Oakland Interfaith Gospel groups, filled Davies Hall on March 29. (Leslie Katz/S.F. Examiner)

Emotion swells at SF Gay Men’s Chorus concert

The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus celebrated its 40th anniversary with a moving spring concert of powerful and joyous music, plentiful special guests and a report from its fall2017 tour of the American south.

On Thursday at Davies Hall, SFGMC Artistic Director Tim Seelig thanked the audience members for filling every seat in the house for the emotion-filled program, called “Bridges.”

There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as the 275-voice choir sang “Seven Last Words of the Unarmed,” a 2016 piece built around the final words of seven unarmed black men — Michael Brown, Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Kenneth Chamberlain, Amadou Diallo and John Crawford — who were killed at the hands of authorities.

Composer Joel Thompson, in town from Georgia, introduced the work, and photos of the men who perished.

Seelig also introduced Jim Dant — a pastor from First Baptist Church in Greenville, S.C., one of the choir’s stops on its purposefully political tour — and his book, “This I Know: A Simple Biblical Defense for LGBTQ Christians.”

The event began with a slide show of the Lavender Pen tour’s people and sites (including a Waffle House) in Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

Santa Rosa-based songwriter-activist Holly Near and the chorus performed her meaningful tunes, “I Am Willing” and “Singing for Our Lives,” which the choir sang at its birth in 1978, at a vigil following the deaths of gay San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone.

Rousing gospel music, featuring guest singers from the East Bay — the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, the Oakland Interfaith Community Choir and Oakland Interfaith Youth Choir — rounded out the evening’s second half, including notable solo vocalists Logan McWilliams and Valeria Scott.

The program closed with hundreds of voices in the combined choirs, directed by Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir leader Terrance Kelly, raising the roof with “Everybody’s Dancing.”

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