Pride Day is celebrated in many cities around the world, and it’s no different here in San Francisco.
One would think every day is Pride Day in our lovely city by the Bay. So true for us at Grace Cathedral. The flags may only be flying sometimes and are our #pridesteps up throughout the year (we would if we could). You will find support for our LGBTQ+ community throughout the year, whether it is a sermon on belonging, a space for all to worship, or advocacy for gender justice. We declared our commitment to our LGBTQ+ identity and allyship by hanging a bold banner with the words/the identities of people whom many legislators around the country seem to be trying to erase but whom we affirm God loves without exception.
We are not the lone voice here at the top of Nob Hill San Francisco! Our neighborhood comprises Nob Hill residents, along with local businesses that employ people from the SF Bay Area. It warms our hearts to see us all unite to promote Pride on the Hill. We start the celebration of Pride month on the first weekend of June, kicking it off with our Pride Mass 2023 on June 4 at 6 pm, and we invite everyone to take a trip up to the top of Nob Hill and feel the love for our LGBTQ+ community. Let’s call it… Pride on the Hill!
I had a moment to catch a few of our local Nob Hill representatives and hear from them what Pride Month means to them and how they will celebrate with the rest of San Francisco:
Allan Casalou, Grand Secretary Free Masons of California:
The Masons of California are thrilled to celebrate Pride on the Hill this month and every day alongside our neighbors on Nob Hill. Our Auditorium will be lit in the glory of LGBTQ+ colors, and we’re especially excited to be the cake sponsor for the party at Grace!
Markus Treppenhauer, General Manager Fairmont San Francisco:
Throughout the entire month of June, a special rainbow flag presentation will fly above the Fairmont San Francisco’s grand entrance. (The rainbow flags will replace the international flags of the original signatories of the United Nations Charter). The Fairmont, in support of the city’s LGBTQ+ communities, has a calendar of events and activities to encompass the whole month, including a Fairmont PRIDE Drag Brunch, Saturday, June 17, 2023. Reservations and further information are HERE. A percentage of sales to benefit our philanthropic partners at SF Pride. Why not stay the weekend? Guests will be tickled the colors of the rainbow with all the fun that awaits with the Pride of Nob Hill Package, which includes a 10% discounted rate, 1 pm late checkout, and a $10.00 donation per stay to SF Pride.
Jennifer Dunn, Director of Sales and Marketing:
On behalf of the InterContinental Mark Hopkins San Francisco, we are thrilled to join in the exuberant celebration of Pride Month! We enthusiastically unite with our vibrant Nob Hill community to proclaim the first weekend of June as a festive extravaganza called Pride on the Hill. Prepare for a lively and joyful experience as our flags soar high, radiating an atmosphere of celebration and togetherness. Come join the fun, and let’s paint the town with pride.
Here is a brief listing of activities at Grace Cathedral for Pride Month
June 4 @ 9:30 am The Forum with Nguyen Pham – Join the conversation with the first Vietnamese President of SF Pride
June 4 @ 6 pm Pride Mass 2023 – Guest preacher Marvin K White, Minister of Celebration of Glide Memorial, Glide Ensemble, Blessing of the Pride Steps, and a Party!
June 9 @ 6 pm The Candlelight Labyrinth Walk –Special intentions for our LGBTQ+ community.
June 26 @ 7 pm Pride Soundbath – Experience a deep meditation like no other. Our cathedral will be lit in pride splendor.
Grace Cathedral celebrates Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, which is observed in the United States during May, and recognizes the contributions and influence of Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans to the history, culture, and achievements of the United States.
What started with a week of national recognition of the contributions of the AAPI to American history is now a month. A month to learn, reflect and celebrate the contributions of our AAPI from the past and to come together as a community to recognize those who continue to voice and activate on our behalf. We are especially grateful to have posters designed by local artist/educator Katie Quan. Her desire to raise awareness of the contributions of AAPI in the SF Bay Area in K-12 education truly resonated with me. I wasn’t aware of the contributions of Asians to the Transnational Railroad until I enrolled in an Asian American studies class at SFSU. 20,000 Asians contributed to building this railroad, and not even one was recognized in my grammar school textbooks!
Our theme for AAPI month is: We Belong.
We create, we build, we dance, we preach, we share, we laugh, we cry, we hurt, we heal, we feel, we love.
We have a fantastic line-up of art, music, cultural events, mind-body-spirit programming, a special AAPI coffee hour, and Pentecost with preacher Norman Fong.
Here is a short list of our AAPI events:
May 1-31 – We highlight selected poetry by Atsuro Riley
May 1 – AAPI We Belong Art by Katie Quan
May 12 – LA-based singer/songwriter Susie Suh Concert
May 20 – Piano trio concert of Studio Ghibli music
May 21 – AAPI Coffee Hour after 11 am service
May 22 – Sound Bath – Guest Brian Wong on Japanese Shamisen and Koto
May 28 – The Forum with the Rev. Norman Fong: A Life of Activism
May 28 – Choral Eucharist with Guest Preacher The Rev. Norman Fong
Earth Day 2023 is Saturday, April 22. At Grace Cathedral, we are committed to preserving the earth daily through conservation practices throughout the cathedral (yeah, we’re a bit stingy with turning up the heat here at the cathedral). Joking aside, we continue to strive towards doing better as we join an interfaith community to call attention to the urgency of our climate crisis.
Suffice it to say that more efforts must be made on all fronts. Not just for human existence. God made us all, and we share the earth equally. We are raising awareness of the importance of preserving our planet so all creatures, big and small, can thrive.
Our Sound Bath this month is in honor of Earth Day. Our unique musical partners, Fractals of Sound, have partnered with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) to integrate ocean sounds and deliver a Sound Bath that will be inspiring. I recall when Sam first approached us with this idea. We were honored that MBARI responded to his outreach, and now, we can say that our musical guest at this upcoming Sound Bath is a mammal weighing almost 200 tons!
First, let me introduce you to John Ryan, a biological oceanographer at MBARI and the principal investigator for MBARI’s Ocean Soundscape Team.
Tell us what MBARI is and what you do.
MBARI is an independent, non-profit oceanographic research center dedicated to advancing marine science and engineering to understand our changing ocean. As a biological oceanographer, I study marine life – from microscopic plankton to gigantic whales – and the complex processes that shape their lives.
John, please describe more about the MBARI recordings our Sound Bath musicians will share.
The ocean sounds we’ll hear – and sometimes feel throughout our bodies – were recorded by an underwear microphone, or hydrophone, that MBARI installed in a deep-sea location near the Monterey Canyon. Our scientific analysis of these sounds has revealed amazing aspects of the whales’ lives, like cooperative foraging and cultural transmission. Ocean sound is also a powerful way for people to connect with these magnificent life forms that dwell largely beneath the waves and beyond our senses. Samples of sounds produced by blue and humpback whales were selected from an archive that spans more than seven years of continuous recordings. The selection of sounds for this sound bath was a collaboration between the sound artist and the scientist.
Sam and John, can you give us a little insight into how Fractals of Sound will be weaving its world music with nature as our featured guest musician?
We visited John onsite at MBARI’s research center to explore its library of hydrophone recordings. Once we found the featured voices, we integrated these recordings into an ambient, experiential sound pad that Fractals of Sound will embellish and interweave throughout a live instrumental sound bath, including didgeridoo, crystal bowls, gongs, guitar, esraj, vocals, and other world instruments.
What do you hope this sound bath will deliver?
An immersive shoreline and underwater ocean experience, starting on the beach with ambient waves, sea birds, and shoreline mammals, including otters and sea lions. We’ll then move under the surface with dolphins and deeper with humpback whales. Ultimately, we’ll probe the depths with calls of the largest mammal currently on earth, blue whales. You’ll feel as much as you hear the ultra-low frequencies of the blue whale’s calls moving through the cathedral during the segment with the gongs. During the final section, we return from the deep to re-emerge on the shore, rested and filled with the echoes and vibrations of fellow earth residents…
Is there anything else you would like to share with the audience? Or What do you hope people will remember from this sound bath?
We hope each attendee will leave with an enriched respect for our fellow Earth residents and a renewed gratitude for this place we mutually call Home.
Join us this Monday, April 24, 7 – 8:30 pm (doors open at 6:30 pm). Space is still available. We offer lying-down options and a seated option. Bring something soft to lie down (yoga mats are available for rental), layers to keep warm, and something to rest your head.
Now in this eighth year, we invite you to experience our specially selected arts programming amidst the soaring arches, majestic columns, and stained-glass windows in a new way. “That Week with the Bachs” is a new musical with the book and lyrics by William Kinsolving and music by Johann Sebastian Bach.
Mr. Kinsolving, we are honored that you have chosen to launch your musical at Grace Cathedral. Why did you choose to do it here in our sacred space?
I must quickly say that the honor is mine in that I was asked by the perspicacious people at the Ghiberti Center at the cathedral if the Bachs might be a part of the Spacious Grace Festival. Believe me, no unestablished writer of a musical chooses a venue. (S)He is walking around looking at any large space with yearning and palpable desperation, figuring out where the vital duet in the second act should be on a stage and how to light it.
When the invitation was made, I had no hesitance about working in a cathedral. My father, grandfather, great-uncle, and a couple of cousins had all been Episcopal bishops, so I knew about cathedrals. My father was hardly ever at his cathedral, traveling from parishes to missions all over his diocese most of the time. But I always sang in the cathedral choir – a lot of Bach, as a matter of fact.
I also knew Grace Cathedral well. I attended the funeral of Bishop Karl Morgan Block, and my brother, an Episcopal priest at the time, was Bishop James Pike’s legislative assistant for two years. More recently, I attended a riveting lecture by Michael Murphy of Esalen, arranged by the current Dean, Malcolm Young, as well as any number of concerts in the nave. When I learned that all the pews were removed for the Spacious Grace Festival, creating an extraordinary space just right for Bach, just right for a musical, I leaped at the offer.
What we will see is described as an “iPad-in-hand staged presentation of a new chamber musical.” This may not be a common term for someone who is not a regular theatre attendee. Can you please describe what that is?
From the beginning, the idea was not to do a full production of “That Week with the Bachs,” which would take a theater, costumes, choreography, and a baroque orchestra. Instead, what we wanted was something of a concert version of it, very much in the style of the Paul Gregory/Charles Laughton versions of “Don Juan in Hell” and “John Brown’s Body” in the ‘50s. What should we call it?
The common term for when the actors hold scripts in a preliminary presentation is “script-in-hand.” But when I auditioned my company, most of them came in carrying iPads with scripts and music already loaded. They assured me – a curmudgeonly Luddite about such paraphernalia – that the iPad was much easier to use than a loose-leaf binder.
Then I wanted the audience to know that they’d be seeing some real action, hence: “staged”. And finally, there’s a sublime moment in the rehearsal process when actors are holding their scripts but have already gone a long way toward performance, so I chose “presentation” to describe that point in development. “Chamber”? I use the word to indicate intimacy; yes, even in the massive nave of Grace Cathedral. The audience is very much included in what goes on, as they will learn from the get-go. I also wanted to be sure that no one anticipated that this musical was going to be “a great big Broadway show.”
After three days of auditions, you have assembled a fantastic cast with many accomplishments. Can you share any highlights about a few of the cast members that you want us to be aware of?
It’s very hard to choose between them. I think that because of luck, timing, and having a composer that they all knew more about than I did, this Spacious Grace presentation attracted a cast so far beyond a playwright’s fantasies as to make me queasy. I doubt if I’ll ever have as perfect a cast as this one in future productions. Simon Barrad was recommended as a baritone who can really act. And then I heard him sing. He’s playing four different parts! I heard about a young soprano who’d won Metropolitan Opera competitions, but what really got my attention was that to earn some extra money, Taylor See had taken on a gondola at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, serenading her passengers with operatic arias of her choice. As to Philip Skinner, I was quickly convinced that he’s the Chaliapin of our age, and why he isn’t playing every bass-baritone lead in opera around the world is beyond me. How incredibly lucky San Francisco Opera is to have him! I think when he joined the cast, I regarded it as a validation of the work that I’d get nowhere else. Then Marnie Breckinridge roared in with not only that spectacular soprano (“William, may I sing Anna Magdalena’s first song a half-step higher?”), she poured out an infectious enthusiasm that cannot be denied.
Frederica Von Stade is one of America’s finest artists and singers and is beloved in the music world. You have her as the Narrator for this fantastic musical. How did you convince her to take this part? Which Cantata do you think Bach would have loved to have her sing — besides 140, of course?
I didn’t convince her. I took advantage of her! Flicka – as the world knows her – was told of the project by a friend of hers, Kay Sprinkel Grace, a Trustee of Grace Cathedral and the President of the Ghiberti Center. Flicka was interested enough to ask to see the material. Knowing that the musical was cast, she expressed her enthusiasm, then made the fateful statement: “I know it’s already cast, but if there’s anything I could do….” She didn’t have a chance.
After the usual preliminary persiflage, here is how our first conversation went :
“Flicka, there’s very much something you can do. We’re doing a concert version of the musical, and I must now write a Narrator’s part. If I write it for you, it’ll be one of the best parts of the show.”
“William, that would be perfect!”
“But here is my problem: If ‘Frederica von Stade’ is on the program, and you don’t sing something, the rest of us will be stoned.”
“Oh, William, I never sang much Bach during my career, and what he asks sopranos to do, I’m not sure I’d want to take that on at this point.”
“Okay, here’s the deal I offer: I’ll write you a song. If you like it, we’ll put it in. If you don’t, we’ll never mention it again. It’ll be forgotten, unmentioned.”
“Oh, William, that’s too much to ask.”
I wrote the song, sent it out to her, and a week of sweating bullets later, she emailed me, “William, I love the song, and I’m driving my husband crazy, singing it all over the house.”
And as far as speculation about what Bach might have chosen for Ms. von Stade, if somehow he had been lucky enough to hear her sing, I can only suggest that he would have asked her to sing everything and anything he ever wrote for the female voice.
How would you encourage someone who is not as versed in classical music to come to see this musical?
I’d encourage everyone to come, knowing that I, too, am not “versed in classical music” and I wrote the thing! In fact, I don’t read music and know not what on earth an “appoggiatura” might be. I am content to leave the music to genius, starting with my collaborator, JS Bach — so easy to work with, being dead — and then to my accomplished Musical Director, Daniel Lockert, and the fantastic musicians in the cast who’ve agreed to join me in getting the musical on. What I promise is a good story, a view into a family struggling against the terrible odds of the times in which they lived. A unique family? Yes, but more importantly, a very human one, and as such, one that takes no special musical background to recognize, suffer with, and enjoy.
Do you intend to perform this musical in other cities after San Francisco? If so, please let us know.
Oh, I will most assuredly let you know!! Your question must be directed from your lips to God’s ear! Grace Cathedral, in its amazing cultural flowering through the Ghiberti Center, allows this first great step in the progress of “That Week with the Bachs.” Our long march begins! Esperance!
Happy New Year from the Marketing and Communications Team!
We are delighted to share with you all the new Grace Cathedral Website.
This has been a labor of love 😊 for many of us here. While our former website was fine and served its purpose, it was time. Our last website launch was in 2015. During seven years, we amassed over 400 separate pages on our site with over 75 different ways to access pages.
A big goal of our new site was to make it things cleaner, simpler, and easier to access what you’re looking for while discovering things you may have never known we offer. Now when you choose a category you get to see a landing page that shows everything that applies to it! Looking for something more specific from the homepage? From our Hamburger menu (the three lines at the top of the site) the categories unravel to reveal the individual topics of interest.
As with anything new, reacquainting yourselves with some of the navigation will take a little time. We also don’t believe it’s perfect or bug free at launch. So, we ask for your patience as we iterate post launch.
Please don’t hesitate to email us at: Communications@gracecathedral.org