Although he was very ill with AIDS by April 1990 when the historic Casavant organ at Holy Apostles was destroyed in a fire, Santo headed the committee to find a new organ for the restored church, and was instrumental in the decision to sign a contract with Rosales Organ Builders for a 32-stop mechanical-action organ.
He composed numerous sacred choral pieces, including many short antiphons, hymn descants and other liturgical items, anthems and motets. David Hurd, the present Music Director at Holy Apostles, has written that "his music is modern and demanding, both of singers and hearers, and gives great presence to the liturgy." Among Santo's extended works are a Passion According to St. John and the Three Tenebrae Responsoria, written in 1985 and dedicated "to all those who have died of AIDS." That year marked the beginning of a tradition he established at Holy Apostles of holding a Tenebrae service each year on Holy Wednesday, in memory of AIDS victims. The 1992 Tenebrae service at the Church of the Holy Apostles was dedicated to Santo's memory.
The following remarks are drawn from a sermon given by the Reverend William A. Greenlaw, Rector of Holy Apostles, at a memorial service for Santo held in February 1992 at St. Luke in the Fields in New York:
"Frank was expansive and dramatic, full of feeling, a liturgical musician who wanted both the liturgy and the music to communicate real life in its joy and in its glory and in its pathos. Frank wanted the church to be "out" in its life and in its expression of who and what it was...
"Frank knew and understood and had strong opinions about the liturgy...Liturgy planning sessions the clergy had with Frank could go on for hour after treasurable hour. We once went to the wee hours of the morning discussing the appropriate liturgical color for Maundy Thursday, going through all the history and precedents, all the possible shades of meaning present in red or white or purple. Finally, and most importantly, we discussed how the color we chose would help convey the meaning of the day that we wanted to express through all the music and liturgy, for all of these things were interrelated. Accessibility and meaning were always far more determinative for us than the observation, ‘that's the way it's always been done.'...
"Frank appreciated and used extensively the English cathedral tradition, but he drew on so much else. He used music from the black tradition. He had a way with spirituals that left many in tears. He loved romantics such as Bruckner as well as the masters of the Italian and English renaissance...Frank loved the French romantic organ tradition, whose lush sounds spoke of the riches of sacramental grace....
"The quintessential Santonian amalgamation came together in Frank's improvisations between the penultimate and last verses of our offertory hymn, as the gifts were offered and the table set...On a major day, or in a festive season, the penultimate verse of the offertory hymn would end, and the next thing you heard was an ominous prefatory rumble off in the distance, and then, while smoke filled the church, the organ would be in a match with the thurible to see who could pour it on the more. Finally, in the most amazing variation on the hymn tune, the whole place would be shaking and thundering, something you could feel as well as hear, especially once we had our 32 foot resultant....
"In the last conversation I had with Frank, about a week before he died, he told me he was concerned that we get moving in the parish and beyond to raise the large amount of money needed for [the new] organ...the instrument which, along with the musical tradition built by him, will be Frank's enduring legacy."
Frank Santo died of AIDS in New York at the age of 48 on January 26, 1992. —Nurit Tilles
Beyond Shame: Reclaiming the Abandoned History of Radical Gay Sexuality by Patrick Moore
Paperback: 264 pages
Publisher: Beacon Press (January 14, 2004)
Amazon: Beyond Shame: Reclaiming the Abandoned History of Radical Gay Sexuality
The radical sexuality of gay American men in the 1970s is often seen as a shameful period of excess that led to the AIDS crisis. Beyond Shame claims that when the gay community divorced itself from this allegedly tainted legacy, the tragic result was an intergenerational disconnect because the original participants were unable to pass on a sense of pride and identity to younger generations. Indeed, one reason for the current rise in HIV, Moore argues, is precisely due to this destructive occurrence, which increased the willingness of younger gay men to engage in unsafe sex.
Lifting the'veil of AIDS,' Moore recasts the gay male sexual culture of the 1970s as both groundbreaking and creative-provocatively comparing extreme sex to art. He presents a powerful yet nuanced snapshot of a maligned, forgotten era. Moore rescues gay America's past, present, and future from a disturbing spiral of destruction and AIDS-related shame, illustrating why it's critical for the gay community to reclaim the decade.
More LGBT History at my website: www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Gay Classics
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