Obituaries: Sean Martinfield

  • by BAR staff
  • Thursday December 28, 2023
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Sean Martinfield
Sean Martinfield

April 26, 1948 — September 20, 2023

Sean Martinfield, professional singer and original San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus member (1979-1983), arts and culture critic, Golden Age of Hollywood aficionado, and lifetime member of the official Jeanette MacDonald Fan Club died September 20, 2023, in his Castro district home. He was a vibrant 75 years old.

A native San Franciscan, Sean Martinfield was a professional singer for over 20 years and private vocal coach for more than 35. This "baritone turned-high tenor," was regarded by friend and founder, the late Jon Sims of the SFGMC, as their very own "Jeanette MacDonald."

Greatest achievements in vocal performance garnered him standing ovations for his solo lyrical renditions of "Indian Love Call" and iconic "San Francisco" with the San Francisco's Gay Men's Chorus Tours America 1981 Concert that performed in nine U.S. cities including, The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., New York City, Seattle Opera House, and Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco where Mayor Dianne Feinstein presented the SFGMC a key to the city, a first-time honor bestowed upon a gay organization. In 1984, he served as one of the last masters of ceremonies, as "Chanteuse Pat O'Shea," at the historic Finocchio's female impersonators cabaret in North Beach.

Sean Martinfield received a Bachelor of Arts degree in theater arts from San Francisco State University and post-graduate studies as a seminarian in philosophy, religion of art history, and ethics at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California. An avid learner and prolific writer, Sean had a prestigious journalism career with the San Francisco Sentinel and served as its entertainment editor from 2006-2010. He covered the classical scene as arts and culture contributor with The Huffington Post (2012-2017). His journalism career spanned globally as a top interviewer to international artists appearing at the San Francisco Opera, Davies Symphony Hall, and San Francisco Ballet. He expanded into the visual art scene covering work of curators for major exhibits at San Francisco's de Young Museum, Legion of Honor, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. A renowned private vocal coach and consultant in musical theatre, Sean published thousands of responses from artists on the popular Q&A website

Sean Martinfield's artistic passions and varied life pursuits led him into the culinary art of baking, which garnered him high honors during his time working in Supervisor Bevan Dufty's office at San Francisco City Hall. Sean's famous tiered birthday cake for former San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom will forever be highlighted alongside his time serving as an ordained minister/officiant to same-sex couples (2004-2008). His zest for life and storytelling led to his latest project, his novel, which, although unfinished, will find its way to publication in honor of his creative endeavor and final wish to be a published writer.

Sean Martinfield is survived by his partner, Thomas Crites; beloved vocal students, Leanne Borghesi, Jane Chavez, Erik Batz, and Janet Roitz; lifelong friend Carol Cochran; author Roi Barnard; and brothers Michael Smith and Al Sehorn. He is preceded in death by his parents, William and Dorothy Smith, and partner, Douglas Wright, a former editor of Washington, D.C.'s Out magazine.

Sean Martinfield's voice and joyful spirit will sing alongside The Great Organ with eternal interment at St. John The Divine Church Cathedral Columbarium in New York City.

A celebration of life is planned for spring 2024 with music honoring his life and legacy with the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band and company members of the SFGMC. Exact time and place will be announced.

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