David Fisher steps down as executive director of Turtle Creek Chorale

David Fisher

David Fisher, who became executive director of the Turtle Creek Chorale two years ago, just as a shake-up within the organization led to the sudden departure of its artistic director, is stepping down from his post.

Fisher, who previously worked for the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs, will return there, once again serving as its assistant director.

“After nearly 20 years working in the arts in Dallas, I’m grateful for my time with the chorale, and I’m thrilled to be returning to the Office of Cultural Affairs where I will be able to continue the work of fostering the growth and success of all of the arts and arts organizations in Dallas,” Fisher said. No reason was given for the move.

Hank Henley, a singing member of the chorale since 2009, will step in as interim executive director.

“Having been vice president and president of the Turtle Creek Chorale, I’m thrilled to be serving this wonderful organization in yet another way,” Henley said in a statement. The board, as well as Henley and current artistic director Trey Jacobs, will immediately begin a search for Fisher’s permanent successor.

“Hank’s experience and passion will serve us well in this role, and we look forward to working with him,” said Zan Moore, Turtle Creek Chorale’s board president.

While at the TCC, Fisher led the search to replace former AD Jonathan Palant. Jacobs was named interim AD in the summer of 2011, and in the spring of last year became its permanent artistic director.

The final concert of TCC’s current season takes place next Thursday at the Meyerson Symphony Center.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Dallas wraps up June Pride series

The panel, from left: Roger Poindexter, Lorie Burch, Scott Whittall, the Rev. Dawson Taylor, Harold Steward, Cece Cox, Pastor Jon Haack and David Fisher. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

The city of Dallas wrapped up its LGBT Pride Month celebration Wednesday with a discussion of how the LGBT community has enriched the city.

A seven-member panel moderated by Fahari Arts Institute founder Harold Steward discussed the contributions their LGBT organizations have made to Dallas over the years and where they envision Dallas in the future. They then took questions from the handful of people in attendance.

The event in the City Hall Flag Room was the last event in the city’s Pride series “Honor, Educate and Celebrate.”

Panelists included Resource Center Dallas CEO and Executive Director Cece Cox, Cedar Springs Merchants Association Executive Director Scott Whittall, Turtle Creek Chorale Executive Director David Fisher, GBLT Chamber of Commerce board member Lorie Burch, Lambda Legal South Central Region Executive Director Roger Poindexter, Cathedral of Hope Executive Minister the Rev. Dawson Taylor and Promise Metropolitan Community Church senior Pastor Jon Haack.

City Council was in executive session so members could not attend, but Councilwoman Delia Jasso stepped out to speak briefly about her pride in the LGBT Task Force for planning great events over the last four weeks. Councilman Scott Griggs also stopped by the Flag Room and spoke briefly. The series began with a kickoff followed by conversations about city services and out officials. Jasso expressed a desire to have another celebration next June and promised it would be “bigger and better.”

While many of the organizations began as a way of welcoming the LGBT community with safe havens to worship, gain access to HIV/AIDS care and enjoy a safe evening out or unbiased legal council, the panel focused on how far Dallas has grown over the decades and how spread out the LGBT community has become. The days have passed where members of the LGBT community only live near Cedar Springs and the only bar patrons along the entertainment strip are gay.

Instead, the LGBT community and its businesses have integrated into Dallas while still maintaining a focus on their original customers, Whittall said. Even religious organizations have grown in attendance with allies who no longer find a barrier between spirituality and sexuality, but Taylor added that the next step is working from being a community that is tolerated to one that is accepted and celebrated.

Task Force member Pam Gerber closed the event by expressing how proud she was to have a June Pride celebration and welcomed input for next year’s events. She said that while the community is working toward acceptance, she “just wants to be.”

“I want to be nothing extraordinary, nothing out of the ordinary,” she said. “I just want to be.”

Suggestions for next year’s Pride can be made to Councilwoman Delia Jasso at 214-670-4052.

—  Dallasvoice

Interim no more: Jacobs in at TCC

It’s official: Trey Jacobs is in as the new, permanent artistic director at the Turtle Creek Chorale.

Following the TCC’s Madonna to Madonna concert Sunday, where Dallas’ gay men’s chorus sang songs from liturgical hymns like “Ave Maria” to medleys of Madge’s pop hits, managing director David Fisher, pictured right, announced that their “new” artistic director would be the guy who has led the group since last summer, pictured left.

It was both a surprise and not. The surprise came because, in an interview with the Voice last October, Jacobs claimed he did not intend to apply for it, as he had recently moved to the same town as his partner after a commuter relationship for years.

I was never totally convinced, even though Jacobs was a rush replacement last year when former A.D. Jonathan Palant’s contract was not renewed at the close of the season. And it was not a surprise when you looked at the Facebook posts in recent days of TCC members, who seemed devoted to Jacobs’ leadership. When Fisher took the stage, I saw it coming.

The reaction from the crowd was enthusiastic, probably owing in no small part to the excellent concert that has just been performed. There was an energy to the chorale that had been missing in some prior concerts, and the membership roster seemed especially healthy. (The subject matter — the role of women and their strength throughout history — was particularly poignant in light of recent political debates concerning women’s health.) Jacobs’ selection was a popular choice and the singers, too. One member of the search committee told me after they looked at 16 candidates, but “we all love Trey,” so he was offered the job.

Another clue it would be Jacobs: A note in the program that the 2012-13 season would be announced soon. That’s the job of an artistic director.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

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

The new guys

The Turtle Creek Chorale bounces back with a new management team but the same commitment to being forever turtle

Concerts

SYNERGY OF NECESSITY | Trey Jacobs, front, was chosen as the interim conductor of the Turtle Creek Chorale only weeks after David Fisher, rear, assumed his position as its new executive director. On Sunday, they will oversee the inaugural concert for both, launching the chorale’s 32nd season. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

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

David Fisher hadn’t even started his first day on the job as the new executive director of the Turtle Creek Chorale last summer when the word came down: The then-current artistic director, Jonathan Palant, was leaving his post, effective immediately. Forget about setting up pictures of his husband and son on his desk; there would be time for housekeeping later. Right now, they had a bigger priority: Finding someone to lead the 180-member gay men’s chorus.

If ever there was a definition of hitting the ground running, this was surely it.

Arts administration is nothing new Fisher, who for years has worked with Dallas’ Office of Cultural Affairs and founded the Festival ofIndependent Theatres. But managing the chorale was uncharted territory for him. Before he’d even learned the names of all his co-workers, he and the chorale needed to find an interim conductor.

In walked Trey Jacobs.

Jacobs had worked in choral music since 1980, although his closest connection to Texas before now was living in Fort Worth for a time in the mid-1980s. Then, while attending a choral convention in San Antonio in 1993, he heard, for the first time, the TCC sing live.

“I was so moved by the beauty of these men’s voices,” he says. “I became a huge fan and started collecting their CDs.”

For the last four years, Jacobs has worked at Eastern Michigan University, but two-plus years of that has mandated a long-distance relationship — his partner had taken a job in Mobile, Ala. — grew too much. In July, “I took a huge leap of faith and resigned” from the university without having a new job in place. Two weeks later, the chorale called. He jumped at the opportunity.

Together, Jacobs and Fisher, along with interim assistant conductor Sean Baugh, formed a quick partnership. Both newcomers in their own way, they have leveraged their skills to manage a smooth transition.

“Trey has such a long history with chorale music, and the chorale fits all of his artistic sensibilities,” Fisher explains, while “I know the

Dallas scene and the community, but little about choral music.” Such symbiosis has helped them go from greenhorns to concert in barely nine weeks. The proof will be the performance this  Sunday of Messiah, the inaugural concert for both at the TCC and the season premiere for the 32-year old chorus.

Although the chorale’s season had already been planned by Palant before his departure, Jacobs says the specific programs had not been laid out. That has allowed him the flexibility to add his own artistic elements and opportunities to express his own ideas.

The cornerstone of the performance, of course, will be selections from Handel’s Messiah, sung in conjunction with other local choruses, but the first act will be a set highlighting favorite numbers from the chorale’s storied repertoire, including “We’re Not Lost, We’re Here” — the first song the chorale ever performed in concert.

The process has been complicated. Jacobs quit his job in Michigan to spend more time with his partner in Alabama. Presently, Jacobs is still living in Mobile, commuting in to Dallas about once a week for rehearsals, while working remotely with Baugh to get the singers prepared. He’s in town more this week leading up to Sunday, and expects he’ll be here almost constantly in December as the holiday concerts approach.

“The [singers] have been incredibly receptive,” Jacobs says, saying his partner has also been unendingly supportive. “I see it in their eyes — they are so excited.”

But while the chorale has an eye toward the future, including a nationwide search for a new permanent artistic director, Fisher and Jacobs stress that for now, Jacobs’ focus is solely on the task.

“One of the stipulations of the contract is not to focus on next season,” Fisher says.

“The interim position was an 11-month contract or until a new artistic director is hired,” Jacobs adds, noting that he has not applied for the permanent post. Instead, he’s concentrating on Sunday’s concert.

“First and foremost I want, from the first night, the audience to be struck thinking, ‘BAM! That’s the Turtle Creek Chorale.’ That sound that is so specific to them, I want recognized from all who attend.”

But there’s another factor everyone who knows the chorale is familiar with, and it’s not about the music per se; it’s about showmanship.

“It’s absolutely crucial,” Jacobs agrees. “I’m stealing this from [former TCC artistic director] Tim Seelig, but what I heard from him is: Every concert should have a gasp, a tear and a chill bump, in whatever capacity. That’s something I’ve always believed in, too.”

When the concert’s over, maybe Fisher will finally take a deep breath and find time to put up those pictures.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 21, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Palant resigns; Fisher joins TCC staff as ED

Jonathan Palant, left, and David Fisher

Chorale board chair says group is on solid financial ground in the midst of ‘exciting transitions’

TAMMYE NASH | Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

As the Turtle Creek Chorale is in the midst of gearing up for its 32nd season, word came this week that the chorale’s artistic director for the last four years, Jonathan Palant, had resigned, and that David Fisher had been hired as the new executive director.

Fisher replaces Stephan Tosha, who announced in May that he would be resigning at the end of July to take a position with Morgan Stanley financial services firm.

But despite the upheaval in the chorale’s top staff positions, board chair the Rev. Dawson Taylor said this week that the chorale is in excellent financial position and that the 32nd season, set to kick off Oct. 23 with “Messiah” at the Meyerson Symphony Center, will continue as scheduled.

Dawson Taylor

“We are moving ahead with our ticket sales and looking at all our options” regarding an artistic director for the season, Taylor said. He said the board is creating a committee to conduct a national search to replace Palant and at the same time discussing how to fill that vacancy in the meantime.

“We expect the search to take six to eight months,” Taylor said. “We will determine how the podium is handled until a new artistic director is hired. We may possibly name an interim artistic conductor, or we may work with guest conductors for different programs. Either way, I am confident the chorale will be in good hands until we find a permanent replacement.”

Taylor said it is very possible that if choosing an interim director, the board would choose “someone local,” and that an interim director would be “someone the membership is comfortable with and confident in.”

Taylor said that Palant had turned in his resignation during a previously scheduled meeting with Taylor on Monday morning, July 18.

“He simply stated that he is leaving [the chorale] to pursue other interests, and I am taking him at his word,” Taylor said.

In an interview Thursday afternoon, July 21, Palant said he is not in a position to disclose details about his future plans at this time, saying only that he resigned from the chorale “to pursue other artistic endeavors” and that he has some “exciting opportunities on the horizon.”

He also said that he will continue as minister of music at Kessler Park United Methodist Church, a position he accepted earlier this year, and that he will continue his duties as chief judge of the Dallas Tavern Guild’s 2011 Voice of Pride competition.

Palant said that “making music with” the Kessler Park church is “a new challenge for me, and lots of fun,” and that he enjoys the opportunity Voice of Pride gives him to “promote new talent, hear lots of great singers and spend time with friends.”

In a prepared statement released Thursday afternoon, Palant said of his future plans, “I am excited to be starting a family with my partner, Mark, and academia has never been far from my heart.”

He also repeatedly heaped praise on the chorale, both in his written statement and in his interview with Dallas Voice.

“It has been a true pleasure being the artistic director these past four years and I firmly believe we have made a difference in the lives of many in our Partners in Harmony program, our many musical collaborations both near and far, within the LGBT community and, of course, with and for our local patrons and supporters,” Palant said in the prepared statement. “Each and every contact I have made over these years, in their own way, has changed my life, and I am grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given. I wish all the best for the Turtle Creek Chorale and its members.”

He also said that the upcoming chorale season will be “fantastic, and I should know because I planned it! I mean, where else can you get ‘Messiah,’ Laura Bush and Madonna all in one season?”

Taylor said he and other board members notified chorale members of Palant’s resignation Monday and then released a statement, shortly before 9 p.m. that night, officially making the news public. Board members then met with chorale members in a “town hall” meeting Tuesday night, giving members the chance to ask any questions and air any concerns they had.

About 80 of the chorale’s current total of 140 to 150 members attended, Taylor said.

“Many of them [chorale members] are grieving right now, and we certainly understand that. This is not where they expected things to go,” Taylor said. “But I feel that by the end of that meeting they all felt like their questions had been answered.

“We are a flexible organization,” he continued. “We are 31 years old. We survived the AIDS crisis. We have only had five artistic directors in 32 seasons. I think that’s pretty unique.

“We are flexible and nimble, and when the season starts, we will be at our best. I think the news has settled in now, and the guys understand that Turtle Creek Chorale is bigger than one person,” Taylor said.

Taylor also said that turnover in the top positions are not an indication of any financial problems for the chorale.

“In fact, we are in the best financial position we have been in in the last 10 years,” Taylor said. “We are now debt-free, and that was not the case when I came on the board four years ago. The credit for that all goes to Stephen Tosha.”

He added that the chorale’s annual fundraising gala, held last month and this year called “Circque,” brought in $100,000,” and that season subscription sales for the 32nd season are “right on target.”

Taylor also noted that he expects the chorale’s financial good health to continue to improve under new executive director David Fisher. Fisher, who takes over the ED position effective Aug. 15, has worked for the Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs since 1995.

During his tenure with the city, Fisher managed the Bath House Cultural Center and the Meyerson Symphony Center. While at the Bath House, he created the Festival of Independent Theaters and directed several productions that drew critical acclaim.

Fisher was a member of the 2004 class of Leadership Dallas and earned a masters degree in nonprofit management from the University of Dallas in 2005.

In 2006, Fisher was appointed assistant director of cultural affairs for the city, overseeing operations at all the city’s cultural centers and the city’s grant programs.

He also led the budgeting and administration functions for the department.

Since last year, Fisher has done double duty as assistant director of cultural affairs and interim general manager of radio station WRR Classical 101.1 FM.

Fisher and his longtime partner, Duncan, live in Lake Highlands with their 7-year-old son, Bennett.

“I could not be more thrilled — or grateful — to be joining the Turtle Creek Chorale as its executive director,” Fisher said in a statement released Wednesday evening.

“Since being part of the Meyerson team that helped produce the first ‘Sing for the Cure’ in 1999, I have followed the Turtles with admiration and appreciation. It is an amazing ensemble with an incredible history and, I believe, an incredible future.”

Both Taylor and Fisher acknowledged that the chorale is in the midst of a time of transition, but both also said the chorale will continue to thrive.

“I am so excited to be on the board and part of this organization right now, and we are all so excited to have David join our staff,” Taylor said. “I don’t think the members of the chorale or our patrons and donors see as being in a time of chaos.

“It is a time of transition, yes. But it is an exciting time of transition. We are moving forward, and I see nothing but good things ahead for Turtle Creek Chorale.”

—  John Wright

David Fisher named TCC executive director

David Fisher

It’s been a busy week for the Turtle Creek Chorale. On Monday, they announced the departure of artistic director Jonathan Palant and a search for his successor. Now, they’ve filled their other key leadership position. Arnold Jones reported back in May that the TCC was conducting a search after executive director Stephen Tosha announced his departure.

The Chorale announced earlier today that David Fisher has been named the organization’s new executive director. Previously, Fisher worked both in theater and the local arts scene in general. He has most recently served as the assistant director for the Office of Cultural Affairs and the interim general manager for radio station WRR 101.1 FM. He begins his position at TCC on Aug. 15.

Read TCC’s official announcement here.

 

—  Rich Lopez