This year marks the 20th anniversary of the one of the great cultural events in New York —the AIDS Quilt Songbook, premiered at Alice Tully Hall on June 4, 1992. Conceived by international concert star, baritone Will Parker, who would die of AIDS a little more than a year later, the AIDS Quilt Songbook was meant to be a first: a classical music response to the AIDS crisis. Will said to me, “I realized after I had AIDS that classical music had done nothing in this epidemic. We could sing about everything else, why not about this?”
So Will, on his own, started to assemble an “AIDS quilt” of concert-quality songs, going to every composer he could think of, and to poets, singers, and with the help of Philip Caggiano, as his publicist and John Gingrich as his manager, brought the AIDS Quilt Songbook to Lincoln Center. It revitalized the almost dead art song in America for the first time in God-knows-how-long. These songs which had usually been in German about pretty miller girls, were now about something real: men and women contracting a terrifying, life-threatening illness, living with it, and dying from it. The AIDS Quilt Songbook confronted what was for many people the sheer aloofness of concert music in America, with its armies of closeted singers, directors, and socialites who didn’t want to know about what was happening in front of them. I was very proud that my collaboration with the young, gifted, and soon to die composer Chris DeBlasio, “Walt Whitman in 1989,” was among these songs and was repeated constantly in other appearances of the Songbook in other cities and years.
On Saturday, Dec. 1, World AIDS Day, the Twentieth Anniversary Concert for the AIDS Quilt Songbook will be performed at the Great Hall of Cooper Union at 7:30 PM, presented by Sing for Hope and Cooper Union, with Thomas Bagwell as artistic director, Philip Caggiano producer and publicist, and a roster of singers, actors, and musicians. It will feature new songs by Robert Aldridge, Juhi Bansal, Stephen Dembski, Herschel Garfein, Gilda Lyons, Drew Hemenger, Fred Hersch, John Musto, Jack Perla, and Wolfram Wagner. I am including a E-poster with more information, but if for any reason your email server doesn’t bring it in, then please get back to me.
Tickets are only $20 each, you can order them through http://aqsb.brownpapertickets.com. One of Chris and my songs, “The Disappearance of Light” will be on the program. I hope that I’ll get to see many of you at Cooper Union on Saturday, Dec. 1, at 7:30. If you are receiving this outside NY, please feel free to forward this email to friends in the city.
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