Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

(Editor’s note: This show has been cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances, according to Phillip Moore.)

What is the perfect holiday gift for the person who has everything? How about tickets to a festive holiday show—perhaps Phillip and Jason’s Super Duper Fabulous Palm Springs Christmas Extravaganza at Copa Nightclub?

The show and fundraiser, featuring songs, stories and laughs from local musicians Phillip Moore and Jason Weber, will include holiday classics—as well as some new takes on those classics.

“I always love ‘O Holy Night,’” said Moore when we sat down over coffee to discuss this new show. “I think whenever it’s sung, it just oozes peace and hope. We are trying to make everyone feel loved and accepted by crossing all cultural and racial boundaries, so we can all celebrate what the season is about—love!”

Moore said the “homo for the holidays” show (his words) will touch on some of the serious issues that he and Weber have endured in their lives.

“Jason and I grew up as pastors’ kids in Baptist homes, and both of us went through reparative-therapy ‘gay camp’ at about the same age,” Moore said. “We both like older men, and we both are musicians. So, I think for us, Christmas being gay still has an element of softness and love, but we also both like to be a little edgy and have fun. … It’s about gay life during the holidays, and will reflect the focus of our fundraiser for December, which is Sanctuary Palm Springs, a foster home for LGBT youth.”

Many of us have fond memories of Christmas … and many of us don’t.

“The toys I remember: One year, I got the (Six Million Dollar) Man! Now, looking back, I know I had a crush on Lee Majors,” Moore said. “The other (toy) was the wind-up Evel Knievel.”

Of course, holiday memories go well beyond presents.

“One special Christmas back in the ’80s that I remember was the year my mom was diagnosed with cancer during the holidays, and I didn’t know if she would be able to come home for Christmas,” Moore said. “But she was released on Christmas Eve! It really was a great gift for this 12-year-old. My mom was the center of my life.”

Moore is an amazing singer who has performed all over the valley and beyond. He is classically trained, with a background in blues and gospel. He grew up in the South, the son of a Baptist pastor, so it’s no surprise that he studied pastoral ministry and music.

“My goal was to be a Christian recording artist,” he said.

However, the fact that he was gay meant that was not to be. After looking for guidance, he was kicked out of the church. He also endured several years of so-called reparative therapy, which, in a way, paradoxically wound up helping him.

“It actually led me to who I really was,” Moore said. “Their motto, ‘The Truth Will Set You Free,’ opened up my life, and it really did set me free. I have wanted to sing my whole life, since I was 2 years old. My sister would sit at the piano and tell me, ‘Could you not sing so loud?’ This is my voice!”

I asked him how he selected the songs for the show. After thinking for a moment, he responded: “‘I’ll Be Home for Christmas,’ well, is one that I love, because I don’t feel comfortable going home to the South, because of who I am—a man who happens to be gay.” Moore added that the show will encompass love, acceptance and laughter.

Phillip and Jason’s Super Duper Fabulous Palm Springs Christmas Extravaganza tales place at 7:30 p.m., Friday, Dec. 15, at the Copa Nightclub, 244 E. Amado Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $30. For tickets or more information, visit

Published in Previews

There have been a bunch of great holiday-themed concerts around the valley—and just five days before Christmas, the Coachella Valley Symphony will performing Holiday Magic at 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 20, at the Helene Galen Performing Arts Center at Rancho Mirage High School.

The Coachella Valley Symphony is a local 50-piece orchestra that generally performs four to six concerts per year. The Holiday Magic concert this year will include a special guest: vocalist Patricia Welch, a musical-theater star who has performed with Yul Brynner and Robert Goulet. There will also be a guest conductor, John Mario Di Costanzo, who was the principal tour conductor for Jackie Evancho’s Dream With Me and Songs From the Silver Screen tours.

During a recent phone interview, Alana Joos, the orchestra manager and a percussionist, said the selection of the music was a collaborative process.

“Many times, the conductor will choose the entire program, but this season, we have guest conductors conducting each individual concert,” she said. “Some of the music was programmed by the conductor, and some of the music was programmed by a committee of people that met and discussed what kind of program we would want to have for the December concert.”

Getting John Mario Di Costanzo as the guest conductor for Holiday Magic was a result of perfect timing: Jackie Evancho’s management decided not to use a live orchestra for her tour dates this year.

“(John Mario Di Costanzo) still works with Jackie Evancho. They have changed the formatting on their concerts, so he’s become more available to do other things, because he’s not on tour as much with Jackie,” Joos said.

Joos conceded that the symphony has struggled to diversify its audience. This season, the symphony is hoping it can accomplish that by diversifying its concert offerings as well: Upcoming concerts include European Masters (Jan. 18), a concert that will include pieces by Rachmaninoff and Saint-Saens; An Afternoon at the Movies (March 1), which will focus on movie favorites from John Williams and others; and Comedy at the Symphony (April 11), an evening of music and comedy.

“Generally, audiences that come to see symphony concerts are usually (from) the baby boomer generation,” she said. “However, this season, we’re trying to program things that do appeal to a younger audience and a broader audience base, so we’re just not targeting senior citizens. This specific concert is pretty generic, because it’s a holiday concert, so it has everything.”

An Afternoon at the Movies is one show that Joos hopes will attract a younger audience.

“That one would really be a fun one for younger people who aren’t familiar with going to orchestra concerts, because it’s going to include a lot of music from John Williams and some of the other heavy film scores,” she said.

Holiday Magic features many of the selections you’d expect at a holiday concert, but Joos said the 70-minute concert should please with a broad number of selections. 

“We’re doing “A Charlie Brown Christmas”; we’re doing traditional holiday stuff that is commonly heard at holiday concerts like The Nutcracker; and for our Jewish audience, we’re including a piece called ‘The Festive Sounds of Chanukah.’”

Patricia Welch told the Independent she was excited about the chance to perform with the Coachella Valley Symphony.

“They’re a community orchestra, but they’re wonderfully seasoned players,” she said. “I live here in the desert, and I’ve performed with the orchestra once in the past, and now they’ve invited me back to perform at the holiday concert with them.”

Welch said she was impressed by the program.

“There are delightful songs,” she said. “It’s really a wonderful pops-orchestra sound, with all the great Christmas classics, and it really gets people in the mood for Christmas. It’s really festive, and it’s a wonderful event for people to bring out of town guests.”

The Coachella Valley Symphony will perform Holiday Magic at 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 20, at the Helene Galen Performing Arts Center at Rancho Mirage High, 31001 Rattler Road, in Rancho Mirage. Tickets are $25 to $45. For tickets or more information, visit

Published in Previews

When announcements started to pop up for two different gay men’s choruses last year, many people wondered why a not-so-large area like the Coachella Valley had two such choruses.

Turns out the groups have different philosophies—and the two choruses are offering two very different holiday shows this year.

The Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus—the older, more established organization—will be doing a modernism-themed show.

“The theme of our show this year is A Mid-Century Modern Holiday, said Doug Wilson, the artistic director of the Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus. “If you look at midcentury architecture, it’s usually thought of being from 1945 to 1965, and we looked at the music written during that time period. We’re doing ‘Winter Wonderland,’ ‘It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas’ and ‘You Better Watch Out.’ We’re doing a lot of the songs that are really familiar to everyone. We’re also doing three Elvis Christmas hits.”

The program being offered by the newer group, Modern Men, is more relaxed in terms of a production, and is focused on the sentimental aspect of Christmas. After a show on Wednesday, Dec. 3, the chorus is offering a second performance on Saturday, Dec. 6.

“The concert title is Stars I Shall Find,” said Bruce Mangum, the artistic director of Modern Men. “We’re doing a mixture of traditional Christmas carols and holiday songs combined with some newer songs from the past 10 years or so. We’re including one powerful number called ‘Not in Our Town,’ which is based on an incident in Billings, Mont., where the town gathered around a Jewish family in support of them after being victims of a hate crime. We also do the traditional holiday songs.”

Back to the reason why there are now two gay men’s choruses in Palm Springs: There was a split due to the aforementioned differing philosophies. Someone who has been part of both choruses and who wished to remain anonymous said the Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus had reached a huge 117 members at one point, and there was a disagreement between the artistic director at the time and the board of directors over the music, as well as other issues. The rift led to the formation of Modern Men. Some members have gone back and forth between the groups, and both groups have gone through recent leadership changes.

The directors offered their own perspectives.

“My answer is that it gives the guys a choice to select which group they want to be part of,” said Modern Men’s Mangum. “Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus is more known for their production-type concerns, and Modern Men is more known for just stand-and-sing. I just consider it the same as: Why do we have more than one restaurant or more than one real estate agency? It just gives people a choice. We invite people to find their niche.”

Mangum added that everyone is welcome in Modern Men.

“We have three straight men who sing with us, and that’s part of our credo, which is we invite all men, gay and straight, to consider Modern Men for their choral group,” he said. “We don’t even have the word ‘gay’ in our title. We reach out to the straight community as well for any men who like to sing and enjoy men’s choral music.”

Wilson said there are two choruses because there are two different visions of what a men’s chorus should be.

“There are enough men and enough diversity in thought of what a chorus should be that two choruses came out of that,” said Wilson. “People have different ideas of what a musical chorus should be doing, and we wanted to something that was a little more fun, and we also wanted to do a wider range of music. Sometimes other choruses want to do something that’s more a narrower range of music.”

Both choruses seem to have a lot to offer the community, and both have a committed group of volunteers.

“The volunteers really make a big difference,” Wilson said. “They want to contribute something to the chorus, and this is how they can contribute. They are probably not singers, and a lot of them have the skills we need to do a lot of the work.”

Mangum said Modern Men’s volunteers are also very dedicated.

“Most of our volunteers are spouses or partners of our members,” Mangum said. “We rely on them for last-minute details, and I’m very proud to say that this year, we are ahead in our ticket sales. ... We were ahead in the schedule, and that was thanks to our members getting the word out. They are invaluable, for sure.”

Both choruses are also looking ahead to their spring programs.

“We start right away in January in rehearsals for our spring concert, which is in April,” Mangum said. “The title of that is Get Your Kicks, and it will feature songs of basically the ’40s through the ’60s. It’s going to be a fun concert and kind of nostalgic for people.”

Meanwhile, the Gay Men’s Chorus will head to the 1970s for their spring show.

“In the spring, we’re doing what’s called ExtrABBAganza,” Wilson said. “It’s going to be all music from ABBA. I think it’s going to be great fun.”

In a related story, also see: Christmas With the Band: The Desert Winds Freedom Band’s Holiday Show Focuses on Classics.

Modern Men will be performing at 3 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 6, at Temple Isaiah, 332 W. Alejo Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $25. For tickets or more information, visit (Pictured below.)

The Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus will be performing at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 13; and 3 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 14, also at Temple Isaiah, 332 W. Alejo Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets $25 to $50. For tickets or more information, visit

Published in Previews

The Desert Winds Freedom Band—the area’s LGBT-friendly concert band—is known for its fantastic Christmas shows. See for yourself when the band performs Joy: A Holiday Celebration at 2 p.m., this Sunday, Dec. 7, at Temple Isaiah in Palm Springs.

During a recent interview, founder Gary Moline discussed the beginnings of the Desert Winds Freedom Band.

“We started out as a community band in 2001, as a gay-friendly group,” Moline said. “We started out as a concert band—symphonic winds, which is like an orchestra without strings.” 

Under artistic director Dean McDowell, the group performs various programs throughout the year.

“We put on four major concerts a year; we have usually a holiday concert, a spring concert, and a summer concert at the Rancho Mirage Library,” Moline said. “The only marching we do is once a year, for the Pride Parade. We invite other members from other bands in the area to come and march with us.”

The group now also includes a jazz-band offshoot.

“The jazz band was added about four or five years ago,” Moline said. “It had its first major concert this year in October all by itself, whereas before, the jazz band would have been in the middle of a concert-band performance.”

The group consists of a variety of musicians, including a few retired people who hadn’t played their instruments since graduating from high school or college. Moline estimated the band includes 65 to 70 members during the peak of the season.

As for the holiday program, the band is focusing on fun and moving classics.

“The theme is Joy A Holiday Celebration, and many of the pieces that Dean picked out are based on joy or bells. It’s just kind of a fun and popular show, and also more of a classical nature. One piece we’re doing is ‘Russian Christmas.’ It’s the longest piece in the program and also a very moving piece. We also won’t have any vocalists this year, so it’s different than what we’ve done in the past.”

There’s also going to be a performance with Temple Isaiah’s pipe organ and a very special master of ceremonies.

“We’re also going to have an emcee, Brian Wanzek, whose alter ego is Bella da Ball. It’s going to be a nice afternoon.”

In related news, also see: The Sounds of the Holidays: Palm Springs’ Two Gay Men’s Choruses Offer Different Concert Experiences.

Desert Winds Freedom Band will perform at 2 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 7 at Temple Isaiah, 332 W. Alejo Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $30. For more information, visit

Published in Previews