When the members of the Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus take the stage this weekend for their two Hollywood Holiday—Christmas at the Movies concerts, they’ll be without one of their most prominent and beloved colleagues.
David Murdock, a singer who had also done everything from sound to public relations for the chorus over the last half-decade, died suddenly on Oct. 17. Murdock was also an active member of the Palm Springs Leather Order of the Desert, and was a key organizer of Palm Springs Leather Pride. He’d spent much of his life working in the entertainment and technology industries. Countless people—myself included—considered David a friend.
The chorus performed at Murdock’s memorial service at the Palm Springs Pavilion on Dec. 4, and this weekend, the PSGMC is dedicating its performance of “The Prayer”—a song from the film Quest for Camelot popularized by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli—to Murdock.
“I can’t even describe all that Dave did for the chorus,” said Douglas Wilson, the PSGMC artistic director. “We joined the chorus at the same time, but I didn’t know that until later, because he had jumped in and was doing everything.”
Hollywood Holiday is the first of the chorus’ three featured concerts this season—and the chorus’ first in its new home, the newly upgraded Richards Center for the Arts, formerly known as the Palm Springs High School Auditorium.
“It’s a beautiful place to be,” said Wilson, who is in his fourth year as the chorus’ artistic director.
As one can guess from the title, Hollywood Holiday features Christmas songs from various movies. Giving the holiday concert such a focus, Wilson said, helped the chorus overcome some of the normal difficulties in creating a Christmas program—new versus traditional, religious versus nonreligious, and so on.
“It is a difficult program to balance out,” Wilson said. “This year, with the idea of movies, it really made it easier to do.”
However, the focus created another difficulty—finding arrangements of not-as-well-known songs for men’s choruses. Wilson said he overcame this obstacle by tapping into the network of other gay men’s choruses—and, in some cases, arranging the songs himself.
As one example of a lesser-known but nonetheless excellent song in the show, Wilson mentioned “Cold Enough to Snow,” from Life With Mikey, a 1993 comedy starring Michael J. Fox—with a dismal 20 percent positive rating on RottenTomatoes.com.
“It’s not a very good movie, but it has a beautiful song,” Wilson said.
Wilson mentioned another song about which he’s excited: “Sparklejollytwinklejingley,” from the Broadway production of Elf: The Musical. While “Sparklejollytwinklejingley” is not from a movie, it is from a musical based on a movie.
“We’re kind of stretching it here,” Wilson laughed. Close enough.
Wilson promised that attendees will love the mix of songs, some of which are from beloved films including The Polar Express, A Charlie Brown Christmas and Meet Me in St. Louis.
The concert may also be a little more emotional than usual, given Dave Murdock’s absence. Wilson mentioned the large reaction he received from the chorus’ members after they were sent a message letting them know about Murdock’s passing.
“What really surprised me was how many people who were new to the chorus—only members for a few weeks, really—who responded, ‘Dave was one of the first people to say hello to me,’ or, ‘Dave helped me.’ He was the epitome of what we want to be as a chorus,” Wilson said.
Hollywood Holiday: Christmas at the Movies will be performed at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 17; and 3 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 18, at the Richards Center for the Arts (formerly known as the Palm Springs High School Auditorium), 2401 E. Baristo Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $25-$50. For tickets or more information, call 760-219-2077, or visit www.psgmc.com.