BACH for the holidays …. and beyond

Volunteer Wanda Brown helps get ready for the Breakfast at Cathedral of Hope on Chirstmas Eve

I have been out of the office, on vacation, since Dec. 22, and when I got back to work today and started wading through the thousands of emails in my inbox, I found one from Hank Henley, asking if we could include some information in Dallas Voice about BACH, the weekly Breakfast At Cathedral of Hope program in which church volunteers prepare and serve breakfast to the homeless.

So I am including Hank’s write-up about BACH’s Christmas Eve event here on Instant Tea, just as he sent it to me:

Use the words “Bach” and “cathedral” in a sentence this time of year, and most people will picture the “Christmas Cantata” or “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” But at a certain church in Dallas, BACH stands for “Breakfast at the Cathedral of Hope,” a program that just celebrated its four-year anniversary in November. On Christmas Eve morning, while most of Dallas was nestled all snug in their beds, a small army of volunteers was in the kitchen at the Cathedral of Hope whipping up a hot and hearty breakfast for the homeless and needy that would be coming through their doors by 7:30 a.m. Under the direction of Rev. William Baldridge, Associate Pastor for Community Outreach, this weekly breakfast has grown from serving just 11 guests at the first meal to an average of 200 guests each Saturday morning.

And guests they are: receiving a hot meal served on china plates and with silverware and glasses. The guests may also receive a haircut after they eat, if they so chose.

This week, in addition to the usual food and drink, each guest received a bag with a blanket, hat, gloves, toiletries, water and food coupons. The gift bags were the result of the generous work of Jan Okerlund and Leslie Frye.

Leslie Frye, one of the volunteer coordinators, when asked how the volunteers feel about the work they do, said, “The real blessing is in the cooking for and serving those less fortunate, not only during this Season, but all year long.”

This Saturday’s volunteers included members of the church community of the Cathedral of Hope, members of the Turtle Creek Chorale and a group of 14 students from “I-CERV,” the “Ismaili Community Engaged in Responsible Volunteering.” They are here once a month, all year long. Kenneth Campbell, the Interfaith Services Director Volunteer Coordinator of the Memnosyne Foundation, brought these energetic and focused youth.

The Memnosyne Foundation is a wonderful organization whose mission is “to help a diverse people of the world consciously encourage an evolution of themselves and for future generations by providing the means to encourage positive, peaceful global collaboration.” The diverse crowd of leaders, volunteers and guests were certainly doing that on this morning.

And one guest, who guest shared his story quietly and privately with tears streaming down his face, personifies the spirit of sharing and giving. This time last year, he was on the street, living under a bridge and depending on the generosity of others to survive. He told me he could always count on a hot meal and being treated with respect when he came to BACH. This year, he is able to draw social security and is donating $25 a month to BACH. “They always fed me and helped me get through. Now I want to give back whatever I can. God blessed me and it’s what I want to do.”

Across the room, his hands deep in a bucket of soapy water, volunteer Jamie Rawson, spent the morning scraping plates and glasses, getting them ready for the dishwashers.

“There a few things a person can do which so clearly put Christmastime in perspective as doing something to help others. It is has been said so often as to become a cliché — but it is no less true for being a cliché. It is heart-warming to see so many people gathered to help provide for those in need. It is especially affirming to see so many young people from such a diversity of backgrounds. This has been the most fitting and rewarding way to truly start my Christmas.”

When the guests were finished with breakfast, finished visiting with friends and volunteers, finished with their haircut, and picked up their bag of supplies for warmth and comfort, they left the cathedral and headed back into the rain and the street.

As they left, Richard Boule greeted each of them and wished them a Merry Christmas.

“As I watched those people leaving the Cathedral after breakfast this morning, I could not help wondering where they were going and what each one of them had to look forward to this Christmas time. But I had the feeling that they were grateful for the humanity they were shown, so many left with a smile. May they be blessed.”

If you would like to help with BACH, please call Rev. Baldridge at the Cathedral of Hope at 214-351-1901.

You can see more photos from the Christmas Eve Breakfast at Cathedral of Hope after the jump.

—  admin

HGG 2011 Gift-A-Day: “Benedetto Casanova: The Memoirs” offers sultry holiday reading

CURL UP AND SWOON

Let’s face it: As much as we all may look forward to the holidays for the time off, a lot of it is spent listening to your partner’s family tell you about that embarrassing moment from his childhood… for the 11th time. Or watching college bowl games between teams you’ve never heard of. Or seeing your nieces and nephews play with the Wii you secretly wanted. Why not give a gift you or your loved one can use immediately? A book is the perfect gift: It requires no plugs, makes no noise and because it is a gift you just got, you can justify sneaking off with it and not seem rude.

For sultry Christmastime reading, Benedetto Casanova: The Memoirs (as told to Martin Weber) may be the best choice. An historical novel about the alleged gay brother of the womanizing Casanova, it’s a homoerotic travelogue through the Renaissance with Benedetto’s escapades making for sizzling sex. And a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the book are donated to the NOH8 Campaign — indeed, NOH8 photog Adam Bouska designed the sexy cover. The book is priced at $19.69. Also comes in a Kindle version.

Available on Amazon.com and other online retailers.

—  Rich Lopez

HOLIGAYS ON ICE

Remembering-Christmas-scan

Remembering Christmas by Tom Medicino, Frank Anthony Polito and Michael Salvatore (Kensington, 2011). $15, 250 pp.

It happens every year. First you start seeing Christmas decorations. Then you notice yourself mouthing the words to carols while shopping. You start to get nostalgic, missing family and remembering this gift and that holiday dinner through rose-colored glasses. It’s ho-ho-horrible, a homesickness for something you never really had — who ever had a perfect holiday, anyhow?

In Remembering Christmas, three authors use three gay-themed novellas to show the only things perfect are the ghosts of Christmases past.

It’s funny how we remember special things we got for Christmas at the same time we remember things we didn’t get. In “Away, in a Manger” by Tom Medicino, middle-aged James is empty-handed and empty-hearted. Life as a gay man in New York was good once. There was always another party, another summer on Fire Island, another trip with Ernst, James’ lover and mentor.

But Ernst is now an old man with fusty habits, the summer house is a tired tradition that needs to be retired and James wants … something. Then, while on his way to spend Christmas with his family, car trouble strands him in a tiny town where his future is hiding, covered in snow.

Remember wishing for that one special thing to show up beneath the tree? No matter how old you are, it’s hard not to have a specific gift in mind when you see piles of gifts, and in “A Christmas to Remember” by Frank Anthony Polito, all Jack Paterno wants is a boyfriend — specifically, Kirk, his pal from high school. There’s much history between them, many mutual friends and boyhood memories in common, but even though Jack is pretty sure Kirk’s gay, Kirk isn’t so sure himself.

Sometimes, lost love feels keener at Christmastime. When Neil broke up with Theo just before the holidays, Theo decided that he might as well do what he said he’d never do, and go home for Christmas. But in “Missed Connections” by Michael Salvatore, a chance encounter with an old love becomes an odd gift.

Though my mother told me not to judge a book by its cover, I have to admit that I did. This book looked like it was going to be a fun read.
I should’ve listened to mom.

Remembering Christmas is fatally dark-mooded. It pouts and mutters, feels sorry for itself, gets morosely introspective and wallows in pity page after page after page. There are occasional bursts of good tidings of great joy, but the melancholy and angst overpowers them. I think I could have handled that in one story, but the similar theme of all three tales made me want to drown my sorrows in spiked egg nog.

If you’re single, hating it and want some paper commiseration, then this book will be good company this season. But if you’re looking for a holiday book that makes you feel all Christmas-y, this one is a perfect disaster.

— Terri Schlichenmeyer

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Thanespotting

I hate to have to say it, but I am so over Shakespeare. It was my college major, and theaters do it with the regularity of The Nutcracker at Christmastime, and frankly, I’m barded out.

Which is not to say I am directing my overall frustration specifically at Kitchen Dog Theater’s current production of Macbeth. At 100 un-intermissioned minutes, it’s a quick dart through the castles of Scotland — almost too quick. At heart, it’s a ghost story with witches and specters and lots of blood … only no blood here, and not a lot of mood. (The design is a convoluted modernization of urban guerrillas — Che Guevara meets Patty Hearst. Didn’t work.) But the problem is not really with the production, which kept my interest though never truly engaged me; the problem is doing it at all. Let’s declare a moratorium on iambic pentameter for two years. Even a great meal needs a palate cleanser.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

Through March 5. KitchenDogTheater.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 11, 2011.

—  John Wright

Good will toward men

Homophobia nearly derailed the TCC’s planned Tyler concert, but some scrambling saved the day — even without drag queens

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor jones@dallasvoice.com

O, HOLY CRAP | A three-year effort for the Chorale to perform in Tyler was almost scuttled, but with a little help from Santa, Jonathan Palant, left, found a solution. Dallas will get its annual Christmas concerts, too. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

O HOLY NIGHT
Meyerson Symphony Center, 2301 Flora St. Dec. 15, 20 and 22.
8 p.m. $30–$67.
TurtleCreek.org.

……………………..

Almost since Jonathan Palant took over as artistic director of the Turtle Creek Chorale, he’s been trying to schedule a concert in Tyler. He is friends with the choir director of the Marvin United Methodist Church, a congregation with an inclusive pastor and active concert series. It was all but a sealed deal earlier this year.

Then came word this summer that some powerful members of the church objected to a gay men’s chorus performing. The offer to perform there was revoked.

“At the time, my blood was boiling,” Palant admits. “But teaching acceptance is in our mission statement, and my personal approach is to encourage tolerance. This wasn’t a time for payback. A picture is worth a thousand words, like the one of the TCC standing beside the [all-men] U.S. Army Chorus. That makes more of a statement that a speech could.”

And he wanted to do that same with the Tyler concert.

“We circled back around and found a different location. Within three weeks we had three churches asking to host us. For acoustics and size, we went to the First Presbyterian Church, and they voted unanimously to approve it,” he says. Which means Tyler will be getting its chorale Christmas concert after all.

And the adage no press is bad press seems to be holding true. “Word has it everybody in Tyler is gonna make a night of it — I’m told it will be standing room only in the 750 seat sanctuary. It’s all the more enticing to attend [when you have been banned],” he says.

The chorale is well-known for its campy concerts, even (especially?) at Christmastime, but Palant says he wanted to go old-school this year — both in the slightly truncated Tyler version and the one that returns to the Meyerson Symphony Center for three performances, starting Wednesday.

“Since we’re back at our home in the Meyerson [following last year’s concert at the Winspear], I really wanted to make it ‘home for the holidays’ — your favorite Christmas carols that you could sing along to,” he says. “We’re leaving the plots and the theatrics behind this year and, as one member called it, the deluxe version of the TCC holiday concert because it’s very traditional — very stand and sing or as I call it ‘park and bark.’”

For traditionalists of another kind, however, there are plenty of chorale favorites. On the slate will be the popular Nigerian hymn “Betelehemu” with African drums, a few light-hearted numbers (one, called “Omnes Virginus Levite Manus” should recall the best of chorale humor, but is more invigorating than silly) and there will of course be “Silent Night” performed with American Sign Language solos and the dedication of poinsettias for departed chorale members (the number has grown to more than 180). And Santa Claus will be there as always.

“We have some new arrangements that are unique enough to keep them fresh but the melodies are still there, like an amazing version of ‘Silver Bells,’ a great gospel arrangement of ‘Children, Go Where I Send Thee’ and a stunning minimalistic version of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ — it’s the version used in the movie Sex and the City,” Palant says.

Sex and the City figuring into a Christmas concert? Sounds like the chorale we’ve come to know and love.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 10, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Why I like Christmastime (other than thinking elves are hot)

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was on TV last night. It’s a tradition even older than I am to watch this mid-1960s bit of Americana, and it reminded me how much of Christmas is really gay — and also how some of the older shows are quite closed-minded and politically incorrect now. Consider this:

• The story of Rudolph is the story of someone who, because of his flamboyance (literally — he’s a flamer) is immediately ostracized by his family and community, and bullied by not only his peers but adults. Worse among these bigots: Santa Claus, who is portrayed as judgmental and in today’s world would probably have advocated “don’t ask, don’t tell” and would condemn its repeal.

• The Isle of Misfit Toys is a collection of gay-ish creatures, from Charlie in the box, who lisps more than Chris Krok on a rant, to the polka-dotted elephant to Dollie, who seems to have nothing on the surface wrong with her (implying she may be damaged in a deeper way, i.e., she’s lesbian. Read the signs, people!).

• Hermie and Yukon Cornelius are clearly gay lovers. The Abominable Snow Monster strikes me as a sloppy bottom, especially once his teeth are pulled (that’s when he takes up a career as a decorator).

• Santa’s transformation (and that of the others) only occurs once Rudolph proves he has some value — a skill no one else has. This strikes me as having cognates in the stop-loss policy that kept useful gays in the military only until suitable straight replacements could be found.

And this isn’t the only one — don’t even get me started about Snow Miser, Heat Miser and Prof. Hinkle.

Ultimately, I think shows like Rudolph are empoweringly pro-gay, despite employing stereotypes to achieve a message of inclusion. But I worry that the messages may be lost to some. Just remember: You heard it here first.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones