Turtle Creek Chorale holiday show ‘My Favorite Things’ at Meyerson

Chorale Christmas tradition

The holiday season isn’t complete without the annual Christmas concert by the Turtle Creek Chorale. In My Favorite Things, they pay tribute to The Carpenters Christmas Collection and of course, they add their own special touch.

DEETS: Meyerson Symphony Center, 2301 Flora St. 8 p.m. $16–$65. TurtleCreek.org.

—  Rich Lopez

Safe bet

Turtle Creek Chorale plays it safe for the holidays — and it shows

concert-2

SANTA’S BACK | The Turtle Creek Chorale continues its tradition of bringing ol’ Saint Nick out for its Christmas concert, but some tweaks might make the show feel more contemporary. (Photo courtesy TCC)

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Tradition is a funny thing, especially during the holidays. Christmas doesn’t feel like Christmas without Charlie Brown and his sad little tree, or driving through neighborhoods to gawk at the twinkling lights. But while changing routines can shake things up, it’s also a good way to start new traditions.

In the Turtle Creek Chorale’s holiday show My Favorite Things, many of the chorus’ traditions remain intact: The poinsettia dedication, Santa Claus ho-ho-hoing it up, a sign-language version of “Silent Night,” But a spike in the egg nog would not be out of place.

To be fair, the chorale underwent some major changes in the last few months, appointing both a new executive director, David Fisher, and interim conductor, Trey Jacobs, who has had to hit the ground running with a season (and dates!) already announced. You can grant them some slack for that, but the chorale’s opening concert, while at times inspiring, could also feel anemic.

Getting off to an energetic start, a crew of members tells the audience about their indulgences before launching into the show’s title track performance. A humorous and high-spirited tone kicked off the show gloriously, followed by the gorgeously majestic “Gloria Fanfare.” Jacobs wields a confident hold over the solid-sounding voices of the chorale. But that energy takes a major nosedive with a troika of serious and somber numbers.

The small Encore group turn up the silly factor with “An Elf’s Life” but miss the mark. The voices are reliable, but the cast lacks the panache needed for the bit to soar. The number is saved by an Occupy North Pole elf that generates major laughs and applause. The first act ends almost as soon as it begins with spirits high in the always punchy “We Need a Little Christmas.”

Although I don’t quite get the monks-versus-nuns concept for “Hallelujah,” the second half opener is hilarious as singers combine flag corps and Bob Dylan, lifting lyrics on cards in choreographed fashion. Whether on purpose or not, the small mistakes with upside-down cards or missed signals add a comic layer that hopefully they’ll keep.

The same can be said for “Jingle Bells,” as members demonstrate some fancy foot-stepping — part ballet, part drill team, but charming as heck. When confusion ensues as they link arms, it ends up being flat-out hysterical, adding volumes to the light-hearted tone.

These gaffes contribute wonderful charm to the show. But they might consider reverting from the live retelling of “The Christmas Story According to Linus” to the actual recording; a man dressed as Linus just doesn’t convey the tender heart of the original. The accompanying live Nativity only reminds me of my one-line role as a shepherd in my elementary school play, and The Sound of Music’s Maria is a running gag through the show that never quite works.

At times, My Favorite Things is weighed down by an abundance of downbeat songs in succession, and a lack of contemporary tunes does allow for younger audiences (not children necessarily, either) to be reeled in. The twenty-somethings in front of me didn’t seem to connect with the show, giggling and whispering during some of the songs.

But My Favorite Things is still a solid show, even with some misguided nuances. Opening night jitters were apparent, but gave an unexpectedly welcome relief to the concert. Fisher’s poinsettia dedication was anecdotal and beautifully poetic and Jacobs handled the chorale and the audience with experienced savvy. The dreary rain and biting cold didn’t dampen the audience as that other annual chorale tradition occurred: The standing ovation.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Best Bets • 12.02.11

Theatre-Britain---Dick-Whittington---Publicity-Photo-1Friday 12.02

Leather for your life
Cows beware as leather needs go up for Mr. Dallas Eagle. Dallas has made big strides in state and national competitions, so the new titile holder will have some big shoes — er — boots to fill. The meet and greet starts Friday with the contest running through Saturday. In the end, 2010 winner Scott Moore, pictured, will pass on the title.

DEETS:
Dallas Eagle,
5740 Maple Ave. 8 p.m. Through Saturday.
DallasEagle.com.

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Saturday 12.03

Olde English style
In Theatre Britain’s panto play Dick Whittington, Dick goes to find his fortune in London. Of course, love gets in the way by the name of Alice and poor Dick is accused of a crime, gets fired and plans to leave, but something tells him not to. The panto play is a British tradition with outlandish characters, audience participation and the grand dame of the show played by a man.

DEETS:
Cox Building Playhouse,
1517 H Ave., Plano.

Through Dec. 28. $15–$18.
Theatre-Britain.com

………………………

Sunday 12.04

Chorale Christmas tradition
The holiday season isn’t complete without the annual Christmas concert by the Turtle Creek Chorale. In My Favorite Things, they pay tribute to The Carpenters Christmas Collection and of course, they add their own special touch.

DEETS:
Meyerson Symphony Center,
2301 Flora St. 8 p.m. $16–$65.

TurtleCreek.org.

—  Kevin Thomas

Good will toward men

Homophobia nearly derailed the TCC’s planned Tyler concert, but some scrambling saved the day — even without drag queens

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor jones@dallasvoice.com

O, HOLY CRAP | A three-year effort for the Chorale to perform in Tyler was almost scuttled, but with a little help from Santa, Jonathan Palant, left, found a solution. Dallas will get its annual Christmas concerts, too. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

O HOLY NIGHT
Meyerson Symphony Center, 2301 Flora St. Dec. 15, 20 and 22.
8 p.m. $30–$67.
TurtleCreek.org.

……………………..

Almost since Jonathan Palant took over as artistic director of the Turtle Creek Chorale, he’s been trying to schedule a concert in Tyler. He is friends with the choir director of the Marvin United Methodist Church, a congregation with an inclusive pastor and active concert series. It was all but a sealed deal earlier this year.

Then came word this summer that some powerful members of the church objected to a gay men’s chorus performing. The offer to perform there was revoked.

“At the time, my blood was boiling,” Palant admits. “But teaching acceptance is in our mission statement, and my personal approach is to encourage tolerance. This wasn’t a time for payback. A picture is worth a thousand words, like the one of the TCC standing beside the [all-men] U.S. Army Chorus. That makes more of a statement that a speech could.”

And he wanted to do that same with the Tyler concert.

“We circled back around and found a different location. Within three weeks we had three churches asking to host us. For acoustics and size, we went to the First Presbyterian Church, and they voted unanimously to approve it,” he says. Which means Tyler will be getting its chorale Christmas concert after all.

And the adage no press is bad press seems to be holding true. “Word has it everybody in Tyler is gonna make a night of it — I’m told it will be standing room only in the 750 seat sanctuary. It’s all the more enticing to attend [when you have been banned],” he says.

The chorale is well-known for its campy concerts, even (especially?) at Christmastime, but Palant says he wanted to go old-school this year — both in the slightly truncated Tyler version and the one that returns to the Meyerson Symphony Center for three performances, starting Wednesday.

“Since we’re back at our home in the Meyerson [following last year’s concert at the Winspear], I really wanted to make it ‘home for the holidays’ — your favorite Christmas carols that you could sing along to,” he says. “We’re leaving the plots and the theatrics behind this year and, as one member called it, the deluxe version of the TCC holiday concert because it’s very traditional — very stand and sing or as I call it ‘park and bark.’”

For traditionalists of another kind, however, there are plenty of chorale favorites. On the slate will be the popular Nigerian hymn “Betelehemu” with African drums, a few light-hearted numbers (one, called “Omnes Virginus Levite Manus” should recall the best of chorale humor, but is more invigorating than silly) and there will of course be “Silent Night” performed with American Sign Language solos and the dedication of poinsettias for departed chorale members (the number has grown to more than 180). And Santa Claus will be there as always.

“We have some new arrangements that are unique enough to keep them fresh but the melodies are still there, like an amazing version of ‘Silver Bells,’ a great gospel arrangement of ‘Children, Go Where I Send Thee’ and a stunning minimalistic version of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ — it’s the version used in the movie Sex and the City,” Palant says.

Sex and the City figuring into a Christmas concert? Sounds like the chorale we’ve come to know and love.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 10, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Shearith Israel synagogue hosting TCC performance

Concert will mark gay chorale’s 1st-ever appearance at a Conservative Jewish temple

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Turtle Creek Chorale Director Jonathan Palant, left, and Shearith Israel Cantor Itzhak Zhrebker
PLANNING THE PROGRAM | Turtle Creek Chorale Director Jonathan Palant, left, and Shearith Israel Cantor Itzhak Zhrebker discuss details of the chorale’s upcoming concert at the synagogue. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

The Turtle Creek Chorale will perform in a Conservative synagogue for the first time in its history. But the relationship has been developing ever since Jonathan Palant became TCC director.

Four years ago, Cantor Itzhak Zhrebker of Congregation Shearith Israel, the Conservative synagogue in North Dallas, sang the Hanukkah blessing at the Chorale’s Christmas concert at the Majestic Theater.

“About a half a year ago, I came to Jonathan,” Zhrebker said. “I wanted to continue our professional relationship. I asked if it would be possible for TCC to perform at Shearith.”

“And we’re members of Shearith,” said Chorale director Jonathan Palant. He said he and his partner joined the synagogue when they moved to Dallas four years ago.

The show will feature music by Jewish composers, many of whom are gay. Among them are William Finn, who wrote Falsettos, Leonard Bernstein, Jerry Herman and Steven Sondheim.

Although he initially included Harold Arlen in the group of gay, Jewish composers, Palant couldn’t actually identify him as gay. Arlen wrote “Somewhere over the Rainbow.”

“Close enough,” Palant said.

Palant and Zhrebker discussed repeating a Chorale commission called “Our Better Angels,” which brought together five minority communities.

“It demonstrates that oppressed people have the same emotions no matter why they’re oppressed,” Palant said. “The pain is the same.”

The piece brings the groups together by rallying behind the hatred and lack of acceptance rather than the reason for it. The five groups included are Muslins, Jews, African-Americans, Hispanics and the LGBT community.

“The texts tell the plight of each and how we’re similar,” Palant said.

He hopes they will perform this piece at a future concert with the synagogue.

The synagogue’s choir will open the concert with two medleys and the cantor will close with the only piece written by a non-Jewish composer.

“The cantor is a spectacular tenor,” Palant said. “He will sing an aria from Turandot.”

Palant describes this concert as an effort to build bridges into an untapped community rather than to tear down walls.

“We have Jewish members but have done no outreach into the Jewish community,” he said.

He called the concert a sort of show-and-tell.

“This is my synagogue,” he said. “Bringing my work life into my home life.”

Palant said the Chorale has performed at a number of churches over the years, including numerous performances at Cathedral of Hope. He recalled one time that the Chorale was scheduled to perform at First Baptist Church for the American Choral Director’s Association. That church canceled the performance at the last minute, which was hastily rescheduled at First Methodist.

“This is not about tearing down the mighty walls of prejudice,” he said. “It’s about outreach. We have not been to this venue before.”

He said that Shearith is a member of the Chorale’s Partners in Harmony program that has signed an “all people are created equal” statement.

He pointed out that the term Conservative refers to the service, not social issues. The Conservative movement ordains woman as rabbis, just as Reform does.

“Just in the last five years, the rabbinic assembly approved the ordination of gay rabbis,” he said. “That gives them the liberty to give honors to gay Jews.”
The honors would include calling a same-sex Jewish couple up to read from the Torah or to marry.

Zhrebker called the Chorale’s performance a gift and has been promoting the concert to church choirs across North Dallas. Other synagogues in North Dallas have been promoting the event as well.

“I’m looking forward to taking this relationship into the future,” Zhrebker said.

Palant is excited about the concert for one more personal reason as well.  “It’s made my mother the happiest Jewish mother ever,” he said. “She’s kvelling.”
“Kvell” is a Yiddish word that means beaming with pride, usually by a parent over a child’s achievements.

Turtle Creek Chorale Concert at Congregation Shearith Israel, 9401 Douglas Ave. Nov. 14 at 7:30 p.m. $15. $12 for students and seniors. 214-361-6606.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 12, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens