I remember the first time about seven members of the Turtle Creek Chorale began the holiday concert by quietly placing the poinsettias each was carrying at the footlights of the stage. Each plant represented a member of the Chorale who had died of AIDS that year.
The next year there were about a dozen poinsettias and then two dozen and then … well, it was too personal. I knew too many of them and I couldn’t keep coming. So I skipped the holiday concert.
Until last night. I decided to come home.
I loved the work the chorale has been doing over the past year, so I decided I was going to attend, and I wasn’t going to cry.
But damn you, Sean Baugh. When I saw that tree made up of more than 200 poinsettias, and I read the list of names and knew more than half of them, I was blubbering even before Baugh projected pictures of five recent chorale deaths.
I’m not the only one who came home for the chorale concert. Denise Lee belted out three songs with the group. The most powerful was a Hanukah song based on an actual incident that happened in Billings, Mont., in 1993. The town had been rocked by anti-black, anti-Jewish and anti-Native American incidents. After a white supremacist threw a rock through the window of a five-year-old boy who had a Hanukah menorah lit in his window, the town newspaper printed a full page menorah. Thousands of people cut out the menorah and pasted it in their windows through the holiday.
I’d heard the song “Not in Our Town” before, but never done as powerfully as Lee and the chorale performed it. And as Baugh pointed out, it’s sadly appropriate this year.
Long-time chorale sign interpreter Don Jones comes front and center as he leads the chorus in a silent version of “Silent Night.” Most beautiful song you’ve ever heard not sung. Well, certainly sung. Just not with voices.
The Bandan Koro African Drum & Dance Ensemble provides a surprisingly wonder first act finale. Surprising? Only because I never knew the group, which makes its home at the Sammons Center for the Arts along with the chorale, before. This ensemble should be filling up City Performance Hall with performances on its own. Thank you, guys, for introducing us.
Of course what’s a chorale concert without its wonderful Chamber Chorus and Camarata mixed in with the full chorus performing? And of course, a little fun with visits from some relatives for the holidays and the exceptionally good SoundBytes. Dressed as elves … the gayest elves since David Sedaris … they tap dance and kick line their way through … well, I hardly remember what they were dancing to because they were so damn funny. As Chuck Sweatt, one of the elves, said to me in the lobby afterwards: Where else can I do so many silly things?
Silly? Those legs were kicking above head level. Call me definitely impressed.
While the instrumental accompanists are always good, a 17-piece orchestra of musicians from the area’s symphonies and other professional orchestras, were another bonus.
Go for a good cry. Or go to hear a great holiday performance. Three more shows: Friday and Saturday night at 7:30 and Sunday’s family friendly performance at 2:30. Get tickets here.