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Musical notes by Steve Schalchlin

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This is a dream sequence number about a singer in a bar where the gods hang out. During the

vision, he notices that the gods aren't speaking. Suddenly, the gods are put on trial.

Symbolically, the point of the song (without hitting the listener over the head) is that if the gods were doing their job, we wouldn't be living with this kind of violence. The singer, confused about who would have the power to bind the hands and feet of the gods, is then commissioned to find a song which will free up the gods to do their job of creating peace.


The Story of "Gabi's Song"

When Gabi and Alec Clayton found their 17 year old son, Bill, crumpled on the floor in their kitchen, it was the moment they realized the longer term, silent effects of hate on its victims. Bill was a beautiful 17-year old boy who had been assaulted in a gay bashing when he was 16, walking across a field with some friends. But now he had taken his own life.

Even though he survived the attack, and even though the entire community turned out to support him in a public event there in his home town, his family totally supportive and behind him, he still could not escape the image of turning a corner and seeing a gang of kids coming at him, their faces pulsing with hate and anger.

I discovered Gabi through the PFLAG email list. She was advertising her modest counseling services. But on the page was a simple statement, "This is my son, Bill, who committed suicide after a gay bashing." And I saw this kid's face. Maybe it was the impish innocence in his eyes. Maybe it was the simplicity of Gabi's statement or the fact that she would announce it all.

But I returned to that page day after day, just looking into his eyes and wondering what would make anyone want to hurt this boy?

Finally, I wrote Gabi and asked her to tell me the whole story. She emailed it. Then I asked her if I could post it on my website. She wasn't sure at first. She needed to think about her entire family. Bill's older brother, Noel. Her husband, Alec.

But she did allow me to post it. And the feedback was so heartwarming and supportive, she put her story up on her own site. This led her into more Internet activism such as the Safe Schools Coalition and Families United Against Hate, which gives comfort to the families of the hate crime victims.

It was through Gabi that I made my connection to John Lennon's piano.

When Kenny Goss, George Michael's partner, read about Gabi's story on the Internet, he brought John Lennon's IMAGINE piano to her home for an art exhibit, and she requested that I sing "Will It Always Be Like This." I was flown to Olympia, and it was right there, sitting at John Lennon's piano beneath a shade tree on a beautiful sunny day in Olympia, Washington that the vision for "Pantheon Bar & Grill" was finally born.

Our story had come full circle. The first words you hear in this cantata for peace is "Will it always be like this?"

The Story of Billy Tipton.

I was writing songs for an upcoming project with Alexandra Billings, a brilliant singer from Chicago but now living in Los Angeles. Since she's proudly transgender, I was looking for a song relating to transgender issues. Then, an old friend of mine, music journalist and songwriter Paul Zollo suggested Billy Tipton, the famed sax player who had a great career in the 40s and 50s, but then stopped performing. So I asked Paul if he would write the lyric.

The story goes that Billy's five wives were shocked and surprised to find out, at Billy Tipton's autopsy that "Billy" was born "Dorothy."

It was assumed that "Dorothy" had become Billy because it was easier for a man to get hired as a musician than a woman in those days. But Billy also had five marriages, never completely disrobing at night saying he was "injured."

So, was Billy Tipton transgender? Was Billy a lesbian who merely dressed up as a man to make a buck? A recent biography states that when he visited his parents, he dressed up as "Dorothy."

But whatever you feel about Billy Tipton, he lived life on his own terms. It was said that he dropped out of the music business because he was afraid of people finding out his secret.

So, this song is just Billy's story, but it's also about the violence of transphobia and the violence of life trapped in the closet. Lyrics by Paul Zollo.

A Song about Internalized Homophobia

I became friends with world-famous gay blogger Joe Jervis (Joe.My.God.) on a discussion board a few years ago. Like myself, he is HIV positive and he has lived through the Holocaust of AIDS. In describing his life, he would frequently use the term "Dead Inside," as a way to describe himself and other people who had simply stopped even trying to love because of the pain they've experienced.

Expanding on his theme, "Dead Inside" evolved into a song about the kind of lost lives some GLBT people suffer as a result of homophobia that evolves into a kind of self-inflicted violence. In the song, which takes place in a bar, a man warns a prospective suitor that he has lost the ability to love only find out that that is precisely what the other man is seeking.


Violence as madness.

"Franco Ate The Paperwork" began as a nonsense title suggested me by drummer Ned Sykes. Oddly, it began to make sense to me as I realized that violence is madness. So, I wrote an impressionistic lyric to reflect this insanity, and amplified it through the use of Latin dance music.

Song of the Reluctant Soldier
I feel that in our culture, violence is celebrated as if it were a sporting event. This song is based on the Tao Te Ching, number 32. It acknowledges that war sometimes is inevitable when one is being attacked, but that one should enter a battle as if going to a funeral, recognizing that the "enemy" is human, and that any life destroyed lowers us all.

The Media's Song

An observation about how the media perpetuates and encourages war as an inevitability by raising the temperature of the debate and celebrating violence with music and computer graphics all in search of ratings. But also how politicians seem to resort to violence first before any real effort at diplomacy is attempted. The musical style is spy club music.


A Song of Religious Violence

I was sitting alone, early one morning, when the news came that the Golden Mosque in Iraq, one of the holiest sites for Shi'ite Muslims, had been destroyed by Sunnis trying to start a sectarian war. I felt a great deal of pain and compassion for the Golden Mosquers until they themselves went out and killed a couple of hundred people in retaliation.

I started to observe that every time a religion or cult or belief system designates an object to be "holy," people have to die over it. I thought, cynically, that maybe that's how they tell how holy they really are, by how many deaths they've caused.

I don't really hate religion. But I think, too often, religion is like a stick of dynamite in the hands of an angry child.



This lyric used the Biblical story of Lazarus, who was raised from the dead. In the gay community, the HIV positive people who survived the first wave of AIDS-related deaths are referred to as Lazarus people. In this song, a Lazarus person confesses that he would not be alive without the love and support of the people who loved him and refused to let him die.


Based on the true story of PFLAG mom, Carolyn Wagner and her son, William, this is a real life example of a mother using non-violent actions -- the court system -- to end the violence and discrimination that was being constantly visited upon her non gender conforming son.

William had been constantly beaten and hounded in Arkansas at Fayetteville High School, finally attacked in the street where he literally crawled home in a trail of his own blood. His mother tried to convince the Principal to action, but the Principal blamed William, dismissing her protests as "Boys will be boys." She took the school system to court and won the case, forcing the small town school system to institute a safe schools policy which has set a standard for school systems all over the country.

Musically, this song is also southern, a blues rocker with just a hint of 50s. 


A song of peace. "May the music bring a healing to this cold and troubled land." Another lyric from Rev. Peter Carman, I absolutely fell in love with the message of simply being thankful. Thankful that we are here. Thankful that the audience is open to our message. And thankful that we have the gift of music to sustain us and to bring peace and healing.


The singer realizes that the there is only one culprit which can limit the power of the gods, one's own self. And that if there will be change in the world, it will have to start with his or her own hands. Being a singer, what one can do is use the power of music. 


The singer, realizing that he or she has the power to create change and sees it as a personal rebirth with the realization that he/she is not alone. The song is written in a very specific southern Gospel quartet style. A religious person can feel that God is with him or her. A secularist can imagine a lover or parent or even one's own personal conscience.


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