Queer Voices

November 22nd 2023 Queer Voices

November 22, 2023 Queer Voices
November 22nd 2023 Queer Voices
Queer Voices
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Queer Voices
November 22nd 2023 Queer Voices
Nov 22, 2023
Queer Voices

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First, we speak with Dr. David York, the music director of the Houston Pride Chorus. We'll explore their upcoming holiday performance, "Ring it In," and get a glimpse of the rich tapestry of talent that forms the chorus. You'll feel the power of unity and the importance of allies in the LGBTQ+ community echoing through their music. And surprise, the Houston Bronze Ensemble, a handbell choir, joins in the concert to add more harmony. 

Our next stop takes us to the vibrant scene of the Houston Pride Band. We catch up with Jason Svatek, its president to talk about the band's upcoming holiday concert, "Twas the Night," and their community engagements. Aspiring musicians take note - this band is open to all skill levels. Also, we'd love for you to show your support and join us at their concert on December 9th at Match in Midtown.

Finally, we roll the red carpet for the stunningly versatile actress Sandra Bernhardt. From shattering norms as the first bisexual character on a sitcom to her captivating performances in "Pose" and "American Horror Story," Sandra's journey is one to behold. Guess what? We also touch upon major issues like the Church of England's view on same-sex marriage, the mysterious death of Latin America’s first out non-binary judge, and the challenges faced by the 11th Gay Games organizers in Hong Kong. So, tune in, engage and be part of the transformation.

Queer Voices airs in Houston Texas on 90.1FM KPFT and is heard as a podcast here. Queer Voices hopes to entertain as well as illuminate LGBTQ issues in Houston and beyond. Check out our socials at:

https://www.facebook.com/QueerVoicesKPFT/ and
https://www.instagram.com/queervoices90.1kpft/

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

First, we speak with Dr. David York, the music director of the Houston Pride Chorus. We'll explore their upcoming holiday performance, "Ring it In," and get a glimpse of the rich tapestry of talent that forms the chorus. You'll feel the power of unity and the importance of allies in the LGBTQ+ community echoing through their music. And surprise, the Houston Bronze Ensemble, a handbell choir, joins in the concert to add more harmony. 

Our next stop takes us to the vibrant scene of the Houston Pride Band. We catch up with Jason Svatek, its president to talk about the band's upcoming holiday concert, "Twas the Night," and their community engagements. Aspiring musicians take note - this band is open to all skill levels. Also, we'd love for you to show your support and join us at their concert on December 9th at Match in Midtown.

Finally, we roll the red carpet for the stunningly versatile actress Sandra Bernhardt. From shattering norms as the first bisexual character on a sitcom to her captivating performances in "Pose" and "American Horror Story," Sandra's journey is one to behold. Guess what? We also touch upon major issues like the Church of England's view on same-sex marriage, the mysterious death of Latin America’s first out non-binary judge, and the challenges faced by the 11th Gay Games organizers in Hong Kong. So, tune in, engage and be part of the transformation.

Queer Voices airs in Houston Texas on 90.1FM KPFT and is heard as a podcast here. Queer Voices hopes to entertain as well as illuminate LGBTQ issues in Houston and beyond. Check out our socials at:

https://www.facebook.com/QueerVoicesKPFT/ and
https://www.instagram.com/queervoices90.1kpft/

Speaker 1:

Hello everybody, this is Queer Voices, a home-produced podcast that has grown out of a radio show that's been on the air in Houston, Texas, for several decades. This week, Deborah Moncrief Bell has a conversation with Dr David York about the Houston Pride Chorus, their holiday performance and their new venue.

Speaker 2:

This is a new venue for this season and we chose this because it's bigger and it makes it a little easier for the choir to fit on the stage. We're a big group now we will be performing with about 90 singers and also for the audience, we have plenty of room Now. As that said, I encourage people to buy their tickets in advance, because then they can get a reserved seat.

Speaker 1:

Brian Levenka talks with Jason Svatek about the Houston Pride Band and their holiday concert.

Speaker 3:

The theme of this concert. The title is Twas the Night. All the music that we're playing and preparing tells a story in some way related to the holidays, whether it's quite literally telling a story or kind of reminds you of holiday stories from childhood or the past. So it's a lot of fun stuff, a lot of new music that the band hasn't played before and some old favorites mixed in as well.

Speaker 1:

Brett Cullum has a conversation with Sandra Bernhard about her upcoming show in Houston.

Speaker 4:

When I get political I get very intense. I do break through to a lot of people who wouldn't have thought about things in a certain way, whether it's abortion, whether it's LGBTQ plus rights, Black Lives Matter, I mean, you know, I kind of cover the whole waterfront of topics and situations that I feel passionate about.

Speaker 1:

And we have news wrap from this Way Out Queer Voices starts now.

Speaker 5:

This is Deborah Moncreve Bell. One of the annual things that happens around this time of year is the Pride Chorus Concert, and this year the theme is Ring it In, celebrating the season with the way that only Pride Chorus can. So with us is David York. He's the music director of the Pride Chorus and we've had David on several times. He got involved in the Pride Chorus movement back in the early 80s. He's had a long career in the music business. I guess you would call it the music business. He's a doctor of music, but what is your exact degree?

Speaker 2:

My PhD is in music composition, with minor in theory. My master's degree is in conducting.

Speaker 5:

I presume that you also sing.

Speaker 2:

I do. My undergraduate degree is in voice performance and vocal music education.

Speaker 5:

Yeah, I've got lots of music training and you make me sound old because I am Well no, it just means you have an incredible body of experience, really well-rounded in all aspects, to be doing the work that you're doing. Music is your career. You're the director of music at First Concertational Church. How did you first get involved with the Pride Choruses?

Speaker 2:

Well, like all of us, when the pandemic was waning, we were still in it, but we had vaccinations and we were sort of getting out into the world. I wanted community and, because of my experience with the Portland Gay Men's Chorus in the early 80s, I decided you know, I know that if I go to Pride Chorus I'm going to be with my tribe, and so I sought out that opportunity and had the good fortune to be able to sing with them at the very end of the very first concert I sang with Gay Pride in 2021. And then, soon after that, the director at the time, matt Jones, got a job in Oklahoma and so he relocated. And then I came on as the artistic director, beginning in August of 2021.

Speaker 5:

It's a Pride Chorus had to kind of shut down for a while during COVID because people couldn't be together and they certainly couldn't be having their mouths wide open and near each other while they sang. So it probably took some adjustment to kind of regroup and come together again. What kind of folks are in the Pride Chorus?

Speaker 2:

Well, people were eager to get back together, so I am pleased to report that since August of 2021, we have more than doubled in size, and we've done that with each iteration of auditions. And the people who are attracted they are as varied as a human humanity is. We have I don't, you know. One of the beautiful things about Pride Chorus is I don't know who does who. There are some of us who are a little bit more obvious than we were our sexuality on our sleeve.

Speaker 2:

There are lots of gay men, there are lots of lesbians, but then there are lots of people who identify as bi or pansexual, and then there are transgendered folks of both varieties, of all varieties in the group, and then there are a significant number of allies and I choose to underscore that because they are in a minority and they are very valuable to our organization, not only musically but socially, and I just make a point of underscoring their being welcomed and celebrated in Pride Chorus. So then you get this wonderful energy hit when you're in the group of young people, old people, people with lots of experience, people who really only sung in church choirs, people who sing in the shower in karaoke, and there are some really astonishing performers in the group as well and they like lending their skills and their mastery to this group effort. Because what we have, that we value more than anything, is that sense of community that I knew would be there and indeed has sung back to me in the way I had hoped and beyond.

Speaker 5:

It really does sound like a place where you find your tribe, and I think it's wonderful that you did give those caduce to allies, because they are an important part of our community People that speak up for other people and are there for them, and for them to feel welcome and included in this diverse group is really important. I also liked it that you said pretty much every variety of people that you can think of and then you kind of are in the role of coach, bringing it all together. In addition to the singing, there's also the Houston Bronze Ensemble that will be part of this concert and they are a hand belt choir. Tell me how they got involved with doing this, I think because you're the director of that as well, right?

Speaker 2:

Yes, I am. I'm a spy in each of those groups. When I got involved in that way and negotiated with each of the groups to have us collaborate, we're giving each other a really valuable service. If either group were to try to hire the other group as guest artists, it would probably be cost prohibitive Because we're doing a direct swap. We're getting a high value support, a collaboration, just by sharing our involvement.

Speaker 2:

It just took a fair amount of mindful programming so that all of the work that we're investing for one concert applies to the other, and yet they are different. If people want to come to the two different programs, they will be entertained freshly because about 60% of each concert is unique to that particular performing group. Then there's about a 40% overlap of the material that we're doing together. Oh my gosh, what a combination it is. What many Houstonians might not know, houston Bronze Ensemble is a virtuosic hand belt choir. They might even know that what they probably wouldn't know without people saying it, like I am about to. Houston Bronze is reputed as being one of the nation's very best hand belt choirs. It's like in a rare category of elite bronze hand belt choirs. All of the ringers have great skill, but you combine that with the time and experience and planning and care that we invest, it results in a very dazzling art form. The music has been arranged and programmed specifically for this performance and I just couldn't overstate how festive it is to put these two groups together.

Speaker 5:

What are some of the highlights you anticipate from this concert?

Speaker 2:

Well, it sounds a little self-serving, so maybe it is, but I wrote a number of arrangements for these two groups and one of my favorites is a it's. We open our concert with a piece called Christmas is Coming, and it's basically that old Christmas is Coming, how joyful it will be, but written for handbells and choir. And then it leads into a medley of it's, beginning to look a lot like Christmas and happy holidays, and then it's the most wonderful time of the year. So I'm very much looking forward to that. And then also I wrote an arrangement of Hark the Herald Angels Sing that uses the two groups together, but it's not a traditional hymn version. You know this is not a sing-along that you're going to hear in churches on Christmas Day. No, this is. It's got a driving, syncopated beat and a lot of rhythm to it and it's just really festive and fun to sing.

Speaker 2:

What is important to know about a Pride Chorus concert in December is that it is a holiday concert and we are deliberate about programming it to be appealing to everyone. Now, if you have a wholesale allergy to Christmas, you probably won't enjoy the concert, because we do say Christmas a lot and some of us are just crazy about Christmas, and so that's just fine. But others tolerate it, and that's fine. But we do live in the United States, and Christmas in the US is pretty difficult to avoid. Rather than try to avoid it, we lean into it vigorously, in small doses, and then we balance it with Hanukkah and solstice.

Speaker 2:

We have a couple of songs in Spanish that we'll be singing, and one of them I just love. It is written by an Argentine composer who speaks about bringing family into his home, and it has this sort of nostalgic, plaintive quality to it because, as I think is true of many people who find themselves in the United States, especially in December, but whose family is in foreign lands, then being able to sing about bringing family into their home is very meaningful. So I'm delighted that we're going to be able to create that moment for our listeners as well, especially our Spanish-speaking listeners and even those of us who don't speak Spanish. The lyrics will be provided and the emotion of the song will be something we all feel.

Speaker 5:

A concert such as this, they come with kind of that expectation, because it does take you back. That's one of the things music does it takes you back and you'll hear a song and you'll go. Oh, I remember where I was when I first heard that song, or that's the song that was playing when such and such happened.

Speaker 2:

I think of at least. What I attempt to do in the programming for a Pride Chorus concert in December is to provide opportunities to reframe some aspects of our child rearing that maybe wasn't so favorable If the coming-out process was challenging and Christmas kind of kicks that up. Some people go through a phase of life where they just have to turn their back on Christmas because it was so painful and you know, everybody has their cycles of when they went and how they process various aspects of living. But what I have attention on in programming is that sometimes those people find their way into our concert and if them, singing and participating in a group, sing along where we're singing my favorite things or rocking around the Christmas tree, or even in Houston white Christmas, for heaven's sake and we're experiencing this in a community environment Just the proximity of being together in this social experience is healing in and of itself and it loads of fun, just tons of fun.

Speaker 2:

We're in a new venue with this concert. We're at well, I say new. Our last concert was also at Unity of Houston and this is a new venue for this season and we chose this because it's bigger and it makes it a little easier for the choir to fit on the stage. We're a big group now. We will be performing with about 90 singers and also for the audience, we have plenty of room Now. As that said, I encourage people to buy their tickets in advance because then they can get a reserved seat and they'll know exactly where their seat is and they can come in just before showtime and get a prime spot. But it's also fine to show up on the day of the concert. We'll have general admission sales as well, and it's a concert that is great to share with family. I promise no spoilers for children wink-link. It's a great opportunity to bring family into a gay supportive environment.

Speaker 5:

I see that you're having something by Mel Tormé, which, of course, is the Christmas song, correct? Just notes roasting on open fire, that's what most people know it by. And then Paul McCartney. What is that? Is that it's a wonderful Christmas time.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's a crazy song. It's hard to believe, you know, and this was post Beatles. But to be honest, it's a fun, kitschy Christmas song. Yeah, it's got a big variety of repertoire. The Mel Tormé song will be sung by the Sopranos and Altos. It's a gorgeous four-part Soprano-Alto arrangement and then the Tenders and Bases will be singing. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, and we'll be doing that one with the handbells.

Speaker 5:

You're listening to Queer Voices and we've been talking with David York, the music director of the Pride Chorus, houston, talking about their upcoming concert, which is called Ring it In, and it will be at Unity Church on December the 9th, from 8 to 9 30. And, david, where can they find out more information?

Speaker 2:

I urge people to go to our website and that would be wwwpridechorusorg and there they can not only find information about how to purchase tickets, they can also find out information about our next auditions in January. We plan to go to Gala next July and we want to go with a big group. I think the acronym has probably been updated since its founding some decades ago, but it stood for Gay and Lesbian Association of Chorisons, but now it's obviously Gay Plus and it's a very robust organization and we haven't had a fully attended conference since the pandemic. So it's going to be in Minneapolis in July and we want to represent Houston. Well, we're taking our Gay Pride concert y'all means all up there, and we're going to take our cowboy hats and our Texas attitudes and we're going to bring a little of the old Texas cheer to Minneapolis.

Speaker 5:

Well, thank you, david. I'm sure that the Pride Chorus will be an integral part of many people's holiday celebrations and, whatever you celebrate, you can enjoy it with the Pride Chorus of Houston.

Speaker 1:

Still to come. On Queer Voices, brian Levenka talks with Jason Svatek about the Houston Pride Band and Brett Cullum has a conversation with Sandra Bernhardt.

Speaker 5:

This radio program we Are Voices has existed since the 1970s. On KPFT we have this little crew of folks working every week to produce what's no longer unique because we're almost mainstream now, but we're still an important voice that might not otherwise get heard because it's not on that many places. So KPFT is very important to give voices to those who might not otherwise have voices. So, as Glenn always says, you participate by listening. You should also participate by supporting the station. So please go to kpftorg and make your donation right away.

Speaker 6:

This is Brian Levinca, and today, on Queer Voices, we're continuing our musical interlude with the Pride Band and its president, jason Savatek. Welcome, jason.

Speaker 3:

Thank you. Glad to be here to talk about our upcoming holiday concert.

Speaker 6:

Well, as a former band nerd or band geek, I know that the Christmas time is a wonderful time for music for the bands. So can you tell me about this concert that's coming up?

Speaker 3:

Yes, yeah, we've been rehearsing it. Basically as soon as Halloween happens, it is full speed Christmas for us. We even started back in early October working on this concert, after our last concert at the end of September. So the theme of this concert, the title, is Twas the Night. All the music that we're playing and preparing tells a story in some way related to the holidays, whether it's quite literally telling a story or kind of reminds you of holiday stories from childhood or the past. So it's a lot of fun stuff, a lot of new music that the band hasn't played before and some old favorites mixed in as well.

Speaker 6:

Tell us about the old favorites. I like to hear the traditional things.

Speaker 3:

Sure, yeah, we're playing Ald Langzein, which is what we know we play pretty frequently. We are throwing in Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas is you, just because that's one that everybody loves to hear and can get enough of this time of year. We're also playing a couple of medleys that have a lot of relatable songs, a lot of things like Carol the Bells and different things like that that are mixed in. So that's a lot of, and we have a new. One of the new ones we're playing is a different take on the night before Christmas and has a narration that goes along with it, that tells a story in a little bit of a different way.

Speaker 6:

The concert is going to be December 4th, correct?

Speaker 1:

It's actually.

Speaker 3:

December the 9th.

Speaker 6:

December 9th, or did I write down the wrong date?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, Saturday, December 9th, 8 pm, and as usual, it's that match there in Midtown as our that's our home for all of our stage concerts.

Speaker 6:

Tell us about the band itself. How does one get involved and who do you need in terms of musicians to come out and volunteer their time?

Speaker 3:

Houston Pride Band has been around. This is actually our 45th season already, believe it or not, and we are open to all abilities and all levels of musicianship. And we are we're a traditional wind band, so no string instruments, but all of your typical. If you think about your high school band, we're definitely that same kind of makeup, and so if you are able to play an instrument and read music, we'd love to have you come and join us and check us out. We're we've grown quite a bit. It's been great to come back to normal size and even a little bit bigger than we were before COVID.

Speaker 3:

Covid was a you know for everybody a little bit of a hiccup, but we've definitely regained our numbers and all of our sections are growing strong. We could always use more, especially in the percussion section and the tremone section. Actually, we're a little light Just in comparison. We have a good tremone section, but the other sections have grown so much that we're getting a little bit out numbers. We'd love to have some more tremone players, and I'm a tremone player myself, so I'd love to have some more backup to battle our huge number of new trumpets. I think we have going on 12 trumpets right now, which is, which is awesome and awesome thing to have, but it's definitely a lot of power there. But to join, we rehearse on Wednesday nights. We rehearse downtown every Wednesday and we do four concerts a year and any information about joining us as a member you can find on our website, houstonprioribandorg. And any other information, too, about just as an audience member, finding out more about our coming performances or how you can support the band. All that information is available on our website.

Speaker 6:

You know that I was a tremone player in high school.

Speaker 3:

I did know that We've talked about that before. It's funny how many people I run into who were tremone players specifically.

Speaker 6:

Yeah, I almost made state. I was once here, I went from state.

Speaker 3:

Nice I made region multiple times, never made it to area. I was in a really competitive region. If I was in it now it probably would have been a better shot, but it was. My brother was an all state tuba player, so he made it after.

Speaker 6:

So I was able to hear y'all at the Woodlands Pride, and y'all sounded great.

Speaker 3:

Thank you. Yeah, that's one of our fun non-stage performances. So besides our four concerts that we do at Match Every Year, we do a lot of community events, a lot of pride related events. Woodlands Pride is one of our big events on the calendar. We've participated in that since their very first one back in, I want to say, 2019. That's the thumb up first to play and that's actually with our PEP band. So we have a PEP slash marching band that does a lot of pop tunes and we march in the pride parade every year and we perform at things like Woodlands Pride and Walked End HIV and other performances, as we're able to find those kind of opportunities.

Speaker 3:

This Christmas we're going to have a couple of other outdoor performances that we have besides this concert. One will be down in Sugarland at Constellation Field. They have a big, huge light display all over the baseball stadium there and they have musicians come and play. So we're playing there on Tuesday night, december the 12th, and then on actually the morning of December night, the same day as our concert, we'll be playing for the with the Out for Education Fun Run that's happening in Montrose. We'll be playing in the morning during registration to get everybody pepped up for that.

Speaker 6:

In terms of volunteers. Do you need volunteers for the pride band?

Speaker 3:

Volunteers are great. Especially we need them during pride season, when we're doing our parades and those kind of performances in the heat of the summer, we always need volunteers to help be in the parade with us, to carry water and carry other gear to keep us going, since we don't have everything right on our person anymore. So always need volunteers there and we can always use other volunteers during the year to help with fundraising efforts, to help with marketing efforts, to help with even with our concerts. We need volunteers to help us load and unload all of our equipment. As you can imagine, a band our size of 75 to 80 people, we have a lot of equipment to bring in and out of match for our concerts, all of our percussion equipment we would bring from storage, all of our music stands. So on concert day we always need some volunteers to help us out. So that would be a great way to help pitch in and help get the band going.

Speaker 6:

How did you get involved with the pride band?

Speaker 3:

I got involved with the pride band back in 2012. I had just come out in my early 30s and was trying to figure out okay, how do I, how do I meet and make friends now that I'm not in school, not in college, don't have just those easy groups to kind of find? And I just, and I'd always wanted to get back to playing. I played trombone all through, you know, junior high, high school and college, and then I just had it packed up in its case. For that point it had been about 10 years. And so, doing a little Google search, I found Houston pride band and turned out the director back then was actually a director at my high school after I graduated, but he had been a director for my youngest brother. So I reached out and I think within you know, probably hours, I got a response back saying, hey, we'd love to have you come to rehearsal. So I went in and the band was quite a bit smaller 11 years ago than it is now and I was only one of three trombones back then. Now we have, you know, upwards of eight. Most of the time and just was an immediate like family. Everybody was so excited to have me there and that spirit continues on with the band even now, and so I was in the band here for a couple of years. Then I moved to New York. I was a member of New York's band.

Speaker 3:

So there are bands like the Houston pride band all over the country and the world for that matter. There's, I think, close to 30 that are all together in a group, an organization called Pride Bands Alliance, and there's there's bands in Australia and in the UK as well as all over the United States, that have the same mission and the same kind of makeup, and it's a great way for adults in the LGBTQ plus community to come out and share their musical abilities and also have a social family to kind of be part of and a and a something to stand up for and to be part of. That can help, gives you an outlet as an adult, kind of gives you a hobby and also gives you a chance to be part of some activism in the community.

Speaker 6:

You mentioned that the march in the pride parade. What other events do you do throughout the year?

Speaker 3:

We do our four concerts. We do Woodlands Pride, we do Walktwin and HIV. We stand there along Allen Parkway as the walkers and runners go by. We also do, I said, a couple of holiday events that we do and they were always looking for some new events to add. We don't have necessarily a lot of other ones that are for sure on our counter, but we also have some small ensembles. We have a small, we have a saxophone quartet called Sax Works and we also have a brass quintet called Brass Tax and those groups are a little more mobile to jump in and perform at things.

Speaker 3:

We actually were at the Houston Pride Chorus's concert back in October. The brass quintet performed as a featured group. So that was a great collaboration we had to have and we had the Pride Chorus perform with us last year. So we're trying to do some more work with them in the community. And then any events. Sometimes there's events at the bars in Montrose that want a little band to come play. I know the brass quintet also performed last year at an art display down at Discovery Green downtown. The sax works also performs at Law Harrington, which is the gay retirement community here in Houston. They perform there quite often and are very well received. So we're always looking for new places we can pop up and get our name out there and kind of help entertain our fellow Houstonians wherever we can.

Speaker 6:

I have a bone to pick with you. The Pride Band concert is the same night as the Pride Chorus concert. Did you know that?

Speaker 3:

I did know that and we have been in our two groups have been talking about that issue and I will tell you that, going forward, we're doing a lot better job of sharing our dates.

Speaker 3:

I will say December is going to probably always be tough because there's only so many Saturdays in December and so that one's a little tougher for us to avoid each other. But this year that is our only concert from the same day. I think last season, I think, three of our four concerts were on the same night, which is we don't want we don't want to have to share the audience or split our audiences. We love to be able to support each other as well. So I've been in our boards, have been talking with each other and we share our dates and a lot of it is just we've had to plan so far ahead to reserve our venues that we don't necessarily get a chance to talk through. But we've recognized that and we want to make sure that that's not an issue going forward so that everybody can enjoy the music that both groups have to offer.

Speaker 6:

Yeah, you're making me choose between a choir and a band, and the band is always going to win in my book.

Speaker 3:

That's good to hear. I know that that's. You know everybody has their, their favorite. So you know, we definitely hope you come to the band concert. But obviously you can't go wrong either way to support either the chorus or the band. But definitely if you make it to the band concert it'll be a really exciting night that you won't regret making it to.

Speaker 6:

Okay, so let's rehash the details of the concert. It is December 9th, not December 4th, at Match Midtown. Tell me more, yeah, so.

Speaker 3:

Saturday, december 9th, 8pm. You can go to our website again HoustonPrideBandorg and right there on our first, on the cover page, is the link to buy tickets, so you can buy them. They'll take you right to the match website. We also still have season tickets available for the rest of our season If you want to buy tickets for our for this concert as well as our April and upcoming June concerts. So Saturday December 9th at 8pm.

Speaker 6:

We've been talking with Jason Savatek, the president of Houston Pride Band. Thank you for coming on.

Speaker 1:

Thank you so much. This is Queer Voices.

Speaker 7:

Today we are joined by what becomes a semi-legend most. Without her, we are nothing and she is our excuse for bad behavior. She's everything bad, everything beautiful and she's still here, damn it. Comedian, actress, singer, radio host, sex symbol and the world's foremost Nina Simone tribute artist, sandra Bernhard. She's coming to town for only one night, on December 4th, at the Heights Theater, to support us in our fight against Texas politics. Welcome, sandra, to Queer Voices. I feel like I'm talking with royalty right now.

Speaker 4:

That was amazing. That was a really clever and wonderful introduction, the likes of which I've never heard.

Speaker 7:

I love Well, thank you. You know you've done a ton of stuff in your story career and I always wondered, when people stop you on the street or in the airport, what do they mainly recognize you for?

Speaker 4:

Well, I mean it's kind of eclectic. A lot of people love Sandy Land, my radio show on Sirius that I do weekly that's more contemporary, you know and of course my ongoing one-woman shows that I continue to do and enjoy and love. And then of course, everything from King of Comedy to Roseanne to Without you I'm Nothing, the films, my appearances on Letterman to my books I mean it's sort of all over the place. And it's a great feeling to know that I've had an impact on culture and hopefully given people a jumping off place to find their way with their emotions, sexuality, friendships, place in the world, ability to like, go beyond the limitations of what the world kind of puts on you, especially now, and I think of myself as one of those people who really, you know, support and encourage people to be who they are and give as much as they can.

Speaker 7:

I find that my generation, a lot of people identify you from Roseanne where you sort of blaze that trail as the first bisexual character on a sitcom in the 90s. But when I'm talking to like the kids or the younger people around me, they recognize you from the Ryan Murphy work like pose American horse.

Speaker 4:

Look how that slipped my mind, so I'm glad you brought that up Exactly. Well, you know, those are two of the two seasons of I mean, well, I did three seasons of post, but those shows were very, you know, gay centric and steeped in the 80s mythology of what you know the LGBT community went through to get where they are now and I was there and I'm here. So it's sort of an interesting, you know, kind of bridge, the gaps between the two worlds of having actually experienced it and now to be able to like look back at it and infuse two different characters with the memories and the emotions of what went on.

Speaker 7:

I always wonder do you have blackmail photos of Ryan Murphy, because he's put you in almost every show lately. How did that come about?

Speaker 4:

I don't think so. I mean, actually there's a lot of shows that she had put me in but he hasn't. He was a fan from without you nothing, when I did it in 88 off Broadway but hadn't really cast me in anything until pose, and I had run into Stephen Cannell and Lady J at the airport and said if there's anything in pose let me know. And then they went back to Brian and they were casting Nurse Judy and he said, absolutely that's a castor, and that's how that happened.

Speaker 4:

So it's sort of funny, because you know, no agent or manager and usually they don't are responsible for getting me these jobs. I mean everything from King of Comedy what a friend recommended me to Roseanne where I just like. Well, I mean Sue Mangers was my agent at the time and she had a, she had a cocktail party dinner and Roseanne and Tom Arnold were there and I'd never really hung out with Roseanne at that point and that's how that happened. But you know, it's very rare for me to go up for a role and audition and get it. It's usually because people are a fan, they go. Yeah, that's a great idea. But I think that's just how it is for most people at a certain point in their career.

Speaker 7:

I probably know you best for your one woman shows, which I adore. I've seen all of them. Your stage act, basically life changing, so I'm thrilled to see this. You're coming to Houston specifically to talk about Texas politics. What made you want to zero in on Texas and do this like three city quick tour?

Speaker 4:

Well, I was there last year and you know, driving from venue to venue, seeing like the whole landscape of Texas, you know the big flags flying everywhere. I mean, like I said, I say in the show, if there was a flag that big in New York City would be like a crystal installation that would cover the entire city. And there's so much, there's so much open space in Texas. So it's sort of a metaphor, you know, for America and kind of what it could be and longs to be. But right now there's just so many roadblocks to letting people breathe and be who they are. And how much more space do you need? You know, how many more resources does a country need to allow people to thrive and be who they need to be?

Speaker 4:

And I think that it's great to come to a place like that where there are so many great people and a lot of people who are stopping the flow and I just it's just an interesting time to come and address that and it all just came together. My new booking agent and, and she had that idea of coming and collaborating with other local artists my friend Kathy Valentine and the Blue Bonnets and Austin and the two of the great performers in Houston for, you know, listen to the music cat and is a cat, and Katarina they've yeah, I mean it's. And then, of course, great, you know, local drag artists and there was the whole, you know, trying to stop drag. I mean everything is just like. It's so absurd. Like who doesn't watch drag? Who hasn't watched drag race of the 2530 seasons it's been on? It appeals to everybody, not just gay people. It's a huge hit.

Speaker 4:

Drag is such such a sort of safe space fun, you know, cutting edge, biting, campy place to like watch somebody, take them take. You know, cultural part and straight people love it because they don't have that uncanny wit. You know they and they need to see it and be a part of it. And I don't know it just came together and here I, here I come. You know it's like I just hope that Texas can find its footing in the next election. I'm a huge bit of a work fan. I don't understand why twice now he hasn't been elected. I don't understand why that shocking. He's so Texas and he's so cool and he's so he loves his state More than anything. Any person who's run for office down there. The rest of the people are just like trying to like stomp out everybody's heart and soul.

Speaker 7:

And in Texas you kind of have these weird blue collections of big cities. Houston is very blue, dallas is very blue, austin is very blue. It's really the surrounding areas, it's these little conservative kind of out in the country that really holds us captive. And a lot of times, you know, beto wins Houston easily, but then when you get out into those other counties and out into the things, there's all this misinformation and things like that. It's it's very disheartening to be held captive by that group. I think, and that's really what we have to work with.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, well.

Speaker 4:

I thought it better. He's gone everywhere in Texas I mean, he just covers it from like a blanket, you know, and people seem to relate to him because he's such a men she cool guy. I can't believe that those kinds of people. They agree with him in theory about gun safety and you know, nobody wants to see anybody get hurt. They want their guns, you guys want your guns. Okay, what can I say? Keep your guns, go hunting, protect yourselves and your own. I don't know what. I don't know what anybody wants anymore with their guns, but that's, that's the one topic we're not getting too deeply into when I come there, because I just think they're so scary with their guns I can't.

Speaker 7:

Well, this is queer voices and we are talking to the legendary Sandra Bernhardt about her show coming to Houston on December 4. It's going to be at the Heights Theater. The initial press release kind of called it Sandy Land, which it's a tie in with your serious radio show, and I noticed that it's titled Stand for Texas. So how long have you been on serious and how is this project kind of a branch of your serious show?

Speaker 4:

Well, sandy Land has kind of become my brand, you know, when I don't necessarily have to like, describe a show in detail and like every show I do like when I go on a proper tour, it has a name. But this was sort of like. This is a familiarity with people who listen to me every week and until, like a lifeline, people call into the show. It's a reflection of what I talk about every week and it's if my shows are topical, but they're also very personal. They're very just day to day. There's a day to dayness about what I talk about on the show that people really relate to, which is why it breaks through in a matter, kind of where anybody's at politically.

Speaker 4:

But when, I get political, I get very intense. I do break through to a lot of people who wouldn't have thought about things in a certain way, whether it's abortion, whether it's LGBTQ plus rights, Black Lives. Matter I mean, you know, I kind of cover the whole waterfront of topics and situations that I feel passionate about and I think that hopefully I break through with people who maybe were afraid or didn't think about things in that same way.

Speaker 7:

And am I getting this right? It looks like it's a three stop tour. The first place you're going is Austin, and you're going to talk about reproductive rights there. Dallas is you're going to address the LGBTQIA plus positions and the things like the drag ban, and then in Houston we're going to talk about education. So how did you come up with those three topics to kind of say, all right, let's go out and pick these three cities and talk about these three things separately on individual nights.

Speaker 4:

It just came together, really wasn't like you know what I mean. And then a friend well, she's becoming like Lauren Ashley Simmons, who's running for State Rep 146 in Houston. I saw her a talk back on Instagram where when that guy came in who was the local politician like Greg Abbott, sent to like kind of basically shut down libraries and turn into detention centers and she stood up to him and like dismantled him in the most brilliant way. So I reached out to her and at that point she wasn't running for anything, she was just. I don't know what she was doing, I don't know if she was a lawyer or what, but she's a very articulate, brilliant woman, really knows her topic.

Speaker 4:

So that was the reason we tied in the education in Houston, because that's very much going on there and she's running for. So she'll come up, she'll speak at the show, two local artists will perform and then there'll be the drag performer I think it's Blackberry in Houston who will kind of host the evening and then I'll do my set. And you know, we're just it's in support of all these organizations. It's all curated by because there's not one organization.

Speaker 5:

It's Noise for Now and See Noise for Now, Thank you honey.

Speaker 4:

Thank you. I'm not on my plate so some of the names of the places kind of go, but you know we've done these, you know we've done a lot of like great crowd mows and all the information is there and people can you know go?

Speaker 4:

either go to my website or go to the local theaters in Houston it's the Heights Theater, as you know to buy tickets Of course we want a full house, we want to sold out and want people to come Enjoy a great night of performing, uplifting insight into what is happening with education in Houston and how people can get involved and, you know, be hands on and changing the narrative and really stopping things from descending into the point of no return. I think that's the most important thing.

Speaker 7:

We're talking to Sandra Bernhardt about her upcoming performance December 4th that's a Monday at 8 pm at the Heights Theater. You can find out any information.

Speaker 4:

No, it's earlier than that. I think the show starts at 7.

Speaker 7:

Oh doesn't it.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, we're doing early shows, especially since it's a Monday night. People got to get up and work. We don't want people to be up too late.

Speaker 5:

So the show is at 7, which means, you can get there, buy some merch.

Speaker 4:

All the organizations are going to be selling merch and we're going to be doing support of all these organizations throughout the evening.

Speaker 7:

All right. Well, good to know, because I saw it kind of circulating around that it was 8, but it's actually 7. It's an early show. I think it's 5. Yeah, awesome information to know, for sure. And of course our local diva Blackberry is going to be there. She's on Dragula this year. It's really going to be fascinating to see how you interact with her. She's the bearded beauty of Texas.

Speaker 7:

And it's so funny because I think that you're aesthetic in these one woman shows. I just think you do have this sense of drag about you. That's so much fun, like when you take on characters or you become people like your relatives and things like that. It always does have that performative kind of drag, campy feeling.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, absolutely, and I was also one of the early, you know, supporters of drag, I mean, and without you I'm nothing. All my background singers are drag queens and, yeah, if you go back and look at the film, they're all gorgeous. You know black women of color, you know drag queens who are amazing and brought such a whole other sensibility to it.

Speaker 4:

You know my work, I don't you know, I never like I don't like sort of celebrate myself in that way. I don't talk about things that I've done or being kind of ahead of the curve. It's just like either you kind of get it or you don't. And that's kind of where I stand with my work and that's really important to me that you kind of like connect with it and get into the emotion of it. And that's the important part of another important element of what I do.

Speaker 7:

I think it's very topical. Everything that you talk about travels through time, well, but it is of that day, and I think that that's what makes you so cool to see, because it really does talk about the current day, but at the same time it's funny, it's fun, it engages you. So I'm really excited to see you live at the Heights Theater, because it's such an intimate space too. I mean, it's really not like this big stadium kind of experience, or even where you're in a smaller performance hall where they black out the audience a little bit. You can see them as you go through the evening. So it's going to be a great experience to kind of be able to experience the sandy land of it all.

Speaker 4:

And of course I'll have my band with me. I mean Mitch Kaplan, my musical director, is putting together local musicians in each market. So it'll be, you know, but it'll be a full band. So the music, which is great and very lively and kind of pulls all the elements of what has it always has in my life performing all the elements of what I'm talking about with that musical sort of punctuation.

Speaker 7:

Yeah. So it's great to see you perform live, because you do insert these kind of witty numbers that make sort of different statements about everything. So I'm really looking forward to see how you loop all of this into Texas. Are we expecting any country? Is that going to happen at all?

Speaker 4:

I don't think there's any like per se, but you know, it's a very eclectic range of music for sure.

Speaker 7:

We're talking with Xander Bernhard, sandy Land, december 4th. It's an early show seven o'clock at the Heights Theater. Tickets and information you can find it at the Heights Theater website. You can also go to sandrobernhardcom and check out the events there. So thank you so much. I feel so honored to actually have been able to talk to you and kind of find out a little bit more about this and just kind of like reminisce, stroll down memory lane of what made you popular and what made you Sandra Bernhard.

Speaker 4:

Well, there's a lot there, and you know, but I like, I like just taking little like bite sized morsels, and you know, and then we can come back and talk more at a different time and keep the ball going. You know the plate spinning.

Speaker 7:

Well, if anywhere needs it or needs you, it would be Texas. Trust me.

Speaker 4:

I look forward to coming back. You know I really have a fondness for Texas. I love I mean, I love barbecue and I love Mexican food. So I'm sort of like a sucker.

Speaker 4:

I just like Texas, I think it's like it's a crazy fabulous place, you know, and people really are interesting they're and you deserve the best and better. And you know people like Jasmine Crockett you know she's a fabulous, you know Congress person and other persons set so much on the floor of Congress. There's just great personalities there and a lot of stuff has come out of Texas. It's been the good, the bad and the ugly, I mean, but it's, it's America, it's. It's sort of encapsulates it all. Like I said, and I'm excited to be there and through all the coming back to Houston again, Well, you are an authority in all things bad, all things beautiful.

Speaker 4:

So, Ryan, thank you honey, it was a delight talking to you.

Speaker 7:

You are listening to queer voices.

Speaker 3:

The night is long and the path is dark.

Speaker 10:

Look to the sky for one place.

Speaker 1:

This is queer voices.

Speaker 10:

I'm Joe Bainline and I'm Alayna Botkin-Levy with News Wrap a summary of some of the news in or affecting LGBTQ communities around the world for the week ending November 18th 2023. The Church of England is going to experiment on lesbian and gay couples. By a single vote this week, the Church's General Synod approved a trial for special services to bless queer partners. The services will look much like the wedding ceremonies of heterosexual couples, with music, readings and other celebratory elements. However, they won't be considered official church wedding ceremonies. Clergy will not be obligated to perform them.

Speaker 10:

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby is the titular leader of the global Anglican Communion. He joined amendment supporter Archbishop of York, stephen Cattrell, in a statement that read in part we have heard loud and clear, through an extensive debate over two days, the depth of feeling across the Church on these hugely important questions. While this motion was passed narrowly, we do not underestimate the depth of feeling and will reflect on all that we have heard as we seek to move forward together. Welby and Cattrell have reason to be defensive. Their statement anticipates the outrage of more traditionalist Anglicans who maintain that romantic, same-gender love is always sinful. Those objections come mostly from the southern hemisphere. There's also opposition within the Church of England itself. To Daniel Matavu, the experiment is contrary to and wholly inconsistent with God's word. The barrister and lame member of the General Synod said during debate that the Bible makes it clear that a man who sleeps with another man cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.

Speaker 10:

The Church of England still teaches that marriage is exclusively heterosexual. It's not yet clear when the first church blessings of queer couples will be held. Some believe it could be in early 2024. The experiment is expected to take about two years before the services are fully authorized. Reverend Canon John Donette leads the Church of England Evangelical Council and gave this warning. It will tear local parish congregations apart, damage the relationship between large numbers of clergy and their bishops and cause churches across the dioceses to feel as though their shepherds have abandoned them. Despite the apparent breakthrough, queer faith activist Jane Ozan of the General Synod believes the Church of England remains deeply homophobic, whatever bishops and archbishop say In her words, I fear that much of the nation will judge the Church of England as being abusive, hypocritical and unloving. They are sadly correct.

Speaker 9:

Activists are not buying the official explanation of the shocking death of Latin America's first out non-binary judge. Jesus Asiel Baena was found dead in their home on November 13th beside a second body identified as Baena's romantic partner, darian Donnie Nieves. Thousands of people marched through Mexico City the following night to demand justice for the trailblazer. Police in the central Mexican state of Aguas Calientes believe that Nieves killed Baena in a crime of passion and then took their own life. Baena's family and some LGBTQ advocacy groups questioned that conclusion.

Speaker 9:

Baena's appointment to the state electoral tribunal in October last year was heralded as historic for a country known for its machismo and rigid gender role expectations. Earlier this year, baena was among the first group of people to be issued a gender-neutral passport. It's no surprise that their groundbreaking career brought repeated death threats. According to police officials, baena had 20 separate razor blade wounds, including the likely fatal slash across their neck. Their family and queer activists are urging police officials to investigate both deaths as possible hate crimes. Former Chief Justice of Mexico's Supreme Court, arturo Zaldívar, mourned Baena's death on the platform known to everyone except Elon Musk as Twitter. He wrote we lost a powerful voice for equality and the rights of LGBTI plus people.

Speaker 10:

The 11th semi-quadrenial Gay Games wrapped up in Hong Kong on November 11th and it was the first queer Olympic competition ever held in Asia. Hong Kong organizers faced more obstacles than many of their predecessors. They survived the COVID pandemic, which postponed the competition. They faced political and cultural opposition to holding such a blatantly queer event in China, as local city officials got heat from Beijing to find a way to stop it. Efforts to ban the Games on National Security Grounds failed. Some human rights groups called for a boycott because the clampdown on freedoms in Hong Kong has gotten worse in recent years. Taiwanese athletes decided against coming to Hong Kong for fear of being arrested. Mainland China refuses to acknowledge their country's independence.

Speaker 10:

36 different sports, arts and cultural events were originally planned. Health and political uncertainties eventually trimmed the number down to 18 competitions, ranging from Dragon Boat races to Ma Zhong. The flagship Dragon Boat races featured more than 500 participants on 44 teams rowing down the Xingmu River. One in four of those teams came from overseas. Some 2,400 competitors participated in the Hong Kong Gay Games. Organizers say the bumpy road ahead of the event led to fewer competitors than expected and smaller venue crowds. Director of Sports, ban Ying, told Out Sports it all revolves around uncertainty which prevents you from wanting to commit. Co-president of the Federation of Gay Games, joni Evans still praised the Hong Kong hosted event as the best games ever. She called the organization and competition perfect, setting a benchmark for future events. The next Gay Games is set for the Spanish city of Valencia from May 31 to June 6, 2026.

Speaker 9:

The US Supreme Court is refusing to back Republican Governor Ron DeSantis' efforts to outlaw family-friendly drag shows in Florida. The nation's top court voted 6-3 not to grant an emergency request to overturn lower courts that had blocked enforcement of the ban. The majority did not provide any reasons for the November 16 decision. The three dissenting judges were the court's most conservative members, clarence Thomas, samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch. They urged their fellow justices to consider Florida's request to review the law. While agreeing with the majority, justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote Florida's stay.

Speaker 9:

Application to this court does not raise a First Amendment issue. Therefore, the court's denial of the stay indicates nothing about our view on whether Florida's new law violates the First Amendment. A district judge citing First Amendment free speech grounds had blocked the ban from taking effect. The vaguely written law bans minors from attending adult live performances and includes an ill-defined prohibition of lewd conduct. Drag shows are not specifically targeted. A three-judge panel of the generally conservative 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals let that temporary injunction stand. The court ruling still blocks enforcement of the law anywhere in the state of Florida. The legal challenge to the law was brought by the Orlando location of the Hamburger-Marie's restaurant chain. Its family-friendly Sunday drag brunch shows are usually sold out. Their case now returns to the full bench of the 11th Circuit Appeals Court for review.

Speaker 10:

According to the Hill, Finally, are one million moms really against Macy's iconic Santa Claus? The organization's number has never actually been verified, but it's circulating an online petition condemning the department store's world-famous Thanksgiving Day Parade. To them, it's a non-binary and transgender extravaganza. They've set their sights on performances from two Broadway musicals along the parade route. In Juliet, the main character's best friend is a non-binary character named May. May is currently being played by the real-life non-binary actor Justin David Sullivan. The moms also target Shucked Gender non-conforming actor. Alex Newell from the TV series Glee plays the female character Lulu.

Speaker 10:

Macy's issued a statement in strong support of its diversity. For nearly 100 years, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade has showcased the very best in entertainment the lighting Americans everywhere with the most popular music acts, the best of Broadway, our country's finest marching bands and dance teams, and giant balloons and floats that capture your imagination. We look forward to celebrating this iconic Thanksgiving tradition again next week. One mom who's not one of the million will usher in the arrival of Santa Claus in the prestigious finale of the parade Superstar Cher, who also has a transgender son named Chaz.

Speaker 9:

That's News Wrap, global queer news with attitude for the week ending November 18th 2023. Follow the news in your area and around the world. An informed community is a strong community.

Speaker 10:

News Wrap is written by Greg Gordon, edited by Lucia Chappelle, produced by Brian DeShazer and brought to you by you.

Speaker 9:

Thank you. Help keep us in ears around the world at ThisWayOutorg, where you can also read the text of this newscast and much more. For this Way Out, I'm Alaina Botkin-Levy. Stay healthy.

Speaker 10:

And I'm Joe Bainline, stay safe.

Speaker 1:

This has been Queer Voices, which is now a home-produced podcast and available from several podcasting sources. Check our webpage QueerVoicesorg for more information. Queer Voices' executive producer is Brian Levinca. Andrew Edmanson and Deborah Moncrief Bell are frequent contributors. The News Wrap segment is part of another podcast called this Way Out, which is produced in Los Angeles.

Speaker 8:

Some of the material in this program has been edited to improve clarity and runtime. This program does not endorse any political views or animal species. Views, opinions and endorsements are those of the participants and the organizations they represent. In the case of death, please discontinue use of discard remaining products.

Houston Pride Chorus Holiday Concert
Houston Pride Band and Holiday Concert
Houston Pride Band and Events
Sandra Bernhardt's Texas Tour and Commentary
Church Approves Blessing for Same-Sex Couples
Church of England and LGBTQ+ Rights
Queer Voices Podcast Information and Disclaimer