A Spotlight On Lower Cape Personalities And Visionaries: Glenn Starner-Tate
Musician. Pianist. Organist. Accompanist.
Choir Director. Minister of Music. Composer.
Theatrical Music Director. Playwright. Actor.
Glenn Starner-Tate is the man behind his music.
Much of Starner-Tate’s formative life is described in his autobiographical play “My Music and Me,” the product of several year’s work and revisions first presented in a solo “Church Version” in August 2015 at the Orleans United Methodist Church, then in a “Theatrical Version” at the Cotuit Center for the Performing Arts in June 2016. It will again be staged at the Chatham Drama Guild this summer.
A mixture of dramatic narrative and piano pieces, the play tells how its author grew up in a Christian fundamentalist family that encouraged his musical interests, as long as they were focused on the church and avoided the showmanship of Liberace. It traces how his ability as a pianist developed both because, and in spite of, the formal training he received, while telling of his military service, his marriage and attempt to live a heterosexual family lifestyle, his various church and secular positions, and his gay relationships, culminating in the integration of the musical, religious and sexual elements of his life by play’s end.
As interesting and complex as is Starner- Tate’s story itself, this play became a vehicle for him to resolve inner conflicts that dated from his childhood, which has in turn allowed his life to develop in new ways. A few months before he married his husband Randy in August 2006, the two men took up residence in the latter’s home in Harwich and Starner-Tate began to serve as the volunteer music resource for the Orleans United Methodist Church. He continued there until 2015, and then, in August 2016, he was appointed the minister of music at the Federated Church of Orleans, where he now combines his roles as pianist, organist, choir director, member of the church’s staff and participant in planning the worship and other events held at the church.
However, religion is not the only vehicle for Starner-Tate’s musical talent. He is also a part of the very active theater community on Cape Cod. He acted in the Cape Cod Community College’s production of “Balm in Gilead,” served as the music director for “Yours, Anne,” based on Anne Frank’s life and diary, staged at Dennis’ Eventide Theater Company Center in February 2016, and was the rehearsal accompanist and keyboard musician for the Falmouth Theater Guild’s production of “Shrek” last May.
Currently he is the music director for the Cotuit Center for the Arts production of “Nunsense.” Since the spring of 2016, he has also been the accompanist for the Monomoy Regional Middle School choral program. “My Music and Me” concludes with Starner-Tate playing a self-composed piece entitled “The Sea,” part of a work-in progress, as he also describes his life, projected to be a seven-part “Song Cycle for Piano” called “The Elements.”
In his church music and other settings he has arranged or adapted a large number of the works that he performs, often bringing to them a style not readily associated with the piece or its context. Starner-Tate’s play not only tells his life story, up to a point, in dialogue and song (its performances require minimal staging, costumes, or props beyond the piano), but it explores the connection between his music, religious upbringing and the development of his own belief system, and sexual orientation. “The play finally creates a bridge linking all of these,” he explains, “by integrating them into a single, authentic personality, one that was there when I was a boy and I regain and accept by the play’s end.” What then of his current – post-play – life that includes both church and theatrical music? “Right now there is no bridge,” he responded when asked. “Theater maybe the bridge. For theater is theater – and worship is theater – and music is a part of both.”
Now in his 70s, Starner-Tate has the energy and enthusiasm of a much younger man, the maturity that comes from life’s experiences, and two separate yet connected worlds in which to further explore his music and himself.