Golden Gate Symphony Orchestra and Chorus Celebrates Life with “Requiem”

It’s been a rough couple of years for everyone, including arts organizations.

Many have gone under, and the ones that are still standing have needed to “pivot”. The Golden Gate Symphony Orchestra and Chorus (GGSOC), and its Benicia Chapter chorus are still standing, and thriving. They have pivoted, first with online classes and concerts, and then later using special extra-spacious “singing masks” to keep performers and audience safe during rehearsals and concerts. They wore masks to perform Handel’s Messiah in Herbst Theater in San Francisco in December. Also in December, they performed selections from the Messiah and Christmas carols outdoors at the Avant Garden, on First Street in Benicia. 

GGSOC Director, Urs Leonhardt Steiner, lost his mother to COVID in 2020. Many of us have experienced personal losses during these two years, to COVID and also to other causes. The Benicia Chapter lost soprano Carolyn Plath, and bass Desmond Rutherford. Caroline and Desmond were both multitalented people, both well known in Benicia literary circles. To mourn their losses, and to celebrate the lives of the many people we all have lost over the past couple years, the GGSOC is going to perform Giuseppe Verdi’s masterpiece Requiem in San Francisco on May 22, and are exploring possibilities for a Benicia performance at this writing. Maestro Steiner writes, “For me this concert is all about celebrating the lives of people who passed away during COVID. I want to give the community an opportunity to celebrate their lives.”

The GGSOC will collect names and short reminiscences of friends and family who have passed away so that they can be remembered during the performance of the Requiem. They invite the public to send the names and reminiscences to to be included.

The GGSOC is based in San Francisco, and is entering its third decade of presenting high quality musical performances all over the Bay Area. The GGSOC singers and instrumentalists range from beginner to accomplished professionals. They are dedicated to providing outstanding classical musical experiences to diverse and under-served audiences. The GGSOC’s Benicia Chapter chorus was created by Steiner and Benicians Bodil and Larnie Fox after a discussion in a San Francisco bar, and debuted with the full orchestra and chorus on Mother’s Day, 2019, with a performance of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana at the Clock Tower. Later that year, they performed Handel’s Messiah at Northgate church in Benicia. 

The GGSOC and its Benicia Chapter chorus are led by Maestro Urs Leonhardt Steiner, the first Swiss citizen to perform at the White House. Steiner is originally from Chur, Switzerland and is a graduate of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He has attended master classes with Andre Previn, Erich Leinsdorf, Leonhard Bernstein, and Herbert von Karajan. He has toured extensively in Europe, the USA, Central America and Mexico, and is the former Artistic Director of the Opera Arosa in Switzerland. He also serves as music adviser of the music schools Musica en Los Barrios, Chispas Musicales and the Sinfonía Campesina in Nicaragua.  

Rehearsals for the Benicia Chapter chorus are starting this March, Tuesday nights from 6:00 to 8:00 pm at Saint Paul’s church on First Street in Benicia.

Maestro Steiner will lead the rehearsals. Singers will also be able to start practicing by accessing online practice tracks and scores. They will require proof of vaccination and boosters, and masks to participate in person. They are a community orchestra and chorus, and all are invited to join. 

Future plans include a possible trip to Scuol, Switzerland to perform Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony as a joint venture with Swiss singers and musicians, and inviting their Swiss counterparts to travel to the Bay Area to perform the majestic Ninth Symphony with the GGSOC, here. 

The Benicia Chapter chorus is still recruiting singers. To find out more about singing with them, email “Ringmaster” Susan E. Lauenstein at You can find much more information at