Lightning strikes again

Tim Seelig felt blessed to lead the chorale for 20 years. But he begins a new stage of his life and career outside Texas with his post at the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | jones@dallasvoice.com

Seelig-HS_WhiteTie_Vert
PICKING UP THE BATON  | After 24 years in Dallas, Tim Seelig leaves his Texas home to take over as artistic director of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus. But as excited as he is about the move, he’ll really miss eating good Tex-Mex. (Photo courtesy Shawn Northcutt)

Timothy Seelig is all about reinvention.

He’s done it almost too many times to count. The first, of course, was when, as a married adult with children active in the church, he came out of the closet and moved to Dallas to lead the Turtle Creek Chorale. For 20 years, he helped build it into one of the preeminent men’s choruses in the world. While there he became something of a musical entrepreneur, releasing albums, commissioning new works and teaching voice at SMU.

After he stepped down from the TCC four years ago, he continued to be active in Dallas life, as director of Art for Peace & Justice at the Cathedral of Hope and serving as the founding artistic director for a new mixed vocal ensemble, Resounding Harmony.

But the change this month is big even for him. He’s moving to California to assume the baton as artistic director of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.

“Wow,” he said just hours after inking the agreement. “I mean, the history of that chorus! Gosh.”

A month later, he’s fully packed and sharing a much smaller space in Dubose Triangle near the Castro District where his partner, Shawn Northcutt, has lived for 18 months while working a long-term contract with Apple. On Jan. 10 — his 60th birthday — he’ll lead his first rehearsal.

“It hasn’t soaked in at all,” he says. “We did not sell our loft [in Dallas] so I’ll come back a lot.”

It’s a major feather in a cap already plumed more than a peacock.

“I loved, loved my time in Dallas,” Seelig gushes. “At the end of my 20 years at the chorale, I felt if I never did anything more significant, I would have lived a life more gratifying that most. It was a life that was full. If I’d had the money, I could have rocked on a rocking chair. But to start back over is icing on the cake and an opportunity not many people get.”

“I could speak about Tim’s legacy, his accomplishments, his infectious personality or his energy,” says Jonathan Palant, who took over from Seelig as artistic director of the chorale.  “It was under Tim’s baton that our mission changed to include the four pillars against which the Turtle Creek Chorale measures everything today: to entertain, educate, unite and uplift. We wish him all the best!”
Seelig steps into a chorus with a storied history.

“In the GALA Choruses network, they are the grandfather,” he says. “In June of 1981, they were two years old and decided to take a national tour to spread the gospel of gays singing. It was a legendary tour — they went to Dallas, Minneapolis, Bismarck and planted the seeds of all these choruses. Many looked to SFGMC for their motivation 30 years ago.” The tour was even detailed in Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City.

With such a legacy, “anytime [the artistic director position] has come open, everybody considers it,” Seelig says. So last August, when the SFGMC announced that Kathleen McGuire (who led the group for 10 years) would be stepping down, Seelig jumped.

It was a bit of déjà vu for Seelig, who had considered the post a decade earlier, “but it was the year we were commissioning Sing for the Cure, and I couldn’t step away. But this time was different. I had to think long and hard, but it was a door I could not not walk through.” He was selected as one of the three finalists and got the job last month, just days before Resounding Harmony’s final concert of the season.

Still, leaving Dallas —  Seelig has lived only in Texas and comparatively brief stints in Europe and Oklahoma — was not an easy decision for him.

“I love my life in Dallas and Shawn has had a fabulous career. Life is happy and Resounding Harmony is one of the most fun things I’ve ever done in my life.” His son and parents, who are elderly, are also local. But he knew it was the right move. His daughter lives in San Francisco; she had Seelig’s first grandchild prematurely, just days after Thanksgiving.

“The biggest factor of all was the birth of my granddaughter, Clara,” he says. “They’ve already picked out names for me and Shawn: Honey and Bubbles. I’m Bubbles. The fact I had conducted that chorus for four months a year-and-a-half ago gave me a real taste for the city, too, though living there will be different.

But I could see myself there.”

Still, there’s a lot he will miss.

“Leaving Resounding Harmony is really, really hard — they are doing just wonderfully. The board members are staying, I think they’ll do a wonderful job,” he says. “It was hard to leave SMU and my students and leave the cathedral as well. I was really enjoying working with Jo — I am a big Jo Hudson fan. But I’m not the kind who looks back. There’s no time for that. SFGMC is like jumping on a moving bullet train. Getting up to speed is incredible.

“And I can tell that fairly first hand, I will miss chicken fried steak and good Tex-Mex. And I’m gonna miss a lot of the musicmaking from the wonderful music community that Dallas has provided. It ‘s wonderful place to be gay and be a musician. Also, Dallas is wide open — if you can dream it up and raise the money, you can do it. I’m gonna miss that.”

There are also things that make him apprehensive about going to a new city — like, his bigger-than-life personality and cheeky turn-of-phrase.

“So far, they find my Texana adorable — they think it’s real cute, like saying y’all. I just hope that’s not gonna wear off,” he says.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 17, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Resounding success

For the third year, Tim Seelig’s choral group sings to feed a real need

Resounding Harmony
SUPPER CLUB | Tim Seelig, center, with members of Resounding Harmony, wants his concert to feed North Texans.

RESOUNDING HARMONY
Meyerson Symphony Center, 2301 Flora St.
Nov. 10. 8 p.m. $30–$50.
ResoundingHarmony.org.

…………………………………..

Timothy Seelig gets angry when he considers that during the season of Thanksgiving, there are still thousands of North Texans who go hungry. Which is why, for the third year in a row, the new season of his Resounding Harmony choral group begins with a fundraiser for the North Texas Food Bank.

“Resounding Harmony is an amazing blend of men [and] women, ages 13 to 77, from absolutely every walk of life, brought together by the music and the larger mission of making a difference in our community,” explains Seelig, the founding artistic director for the chorus.

Now more than 200 voices strong, Resounding Harmony had its genesis in a smaller mixed choral group Seelig helped put together for the March 2008 Voices of Peace celebration to honor Maya Angelou. That group caught the eye of Gregg Smith, a pastor at the Oak Lawn United Methodist Church, who approached Seelig and Hope for Peace & Justice about creating another chorus to help raise money and collect food for the needy. Not long afterwards, Resounding Harmony and its “musical philanthropic mission” were born.

“The North Texas Food Bank shared with us that they had just launched a three-year initiative and we immediately signed on to partner with them,” Seelig says.

The first year, Resounding Harmony raised enough to provide the NTFB with the means to offer 65,000 meals to North Texans unable to feed themselves. Last year, the chorus took an even more ambitious aim: to help provide 100,000 meals — a goal it surpassed by 10,000 meals. This year, Seelig once again wants to exceed the 100,000 mark. The concert takes place Nov. 10 at the Meyerson Symphony Center

“We are working very hard to add to the concert proceeds, income from the virtual food drive, actual food drives, Dinner in Destin Raffle, the Recyclable Grocery Bags and the Fabulous Table Auction,” Seelig says.

While the concert is intended to call attention to the reality of hunger in North Texas, Seelig promises that the show itself will be “[a] perfect balance of humor and seriousness.”

Some songs on the program, like “Lime Jello Marshmallow Cottage Cheese Surprise” and “Jalapeno Chorus”(a distinctly Southwestern play on Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus”) are laugh-out-loud funny. Others, like the poignant “Famine Song” and the rousing “Love Can Build a Bridge,” are intended to stir emotions.

Additional concert highlights include Russ Rieger playing the Lay Family Concert Organ and pianist Antoine Spencer performing a medley of Leonard Bernstein pieces.

“Every person attending will enter these holidays with beautiful music in their ears and in their hearts,” Seelig says.

In the three years of its existence, Resounding Harmony has also sung on behalf of other organizations, such as the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing Arts, Lowe Elementary and The Samaritan Inn. With its June 2010 Carnegie Hall “Sing for Cure” performance for the Susan G. Komen Foundation, it has also quickly established itself as a distinguished member of the Dallas arts community

“The philosophy is to use our music as a philanthropic vehicle to raise money and awareness,” explains Seelig. “It is truly an effort to use music as a means to a greater end, rather than an end in and of itself.”

— M.M. Adjarian

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 5, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Applause • Black. Power. Movement.

Dallas Black Dance Theatre ramps its 2010-11 season way up before celebrating 35 years

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer

Dancers Chris and Bravita
Dancers Chris and Bravita bring a fine line to the new season of the Dallas Black Dance Theatre. Photography by Richard W. Rodriguez

As far as birthdays or anniversaries go, 34 isn’t usually considered a standout milestone. But for Ann Williams, it means a lot.

As the founding artistic director of the Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Williams sees the company’s upcoming 34th season as one of renewal and renovation — and one about preparing Dallas for its inevitable 35th year in the city.

“I did not think 35 years ago that it would ever be like this,” says Williams. “Back then, I just wanted a place to educate little girls; I just had my academy. Now, we get to service the city with professional dance theater.”

The DBDT calls its 2010–11 lineup A Season of Strength, Intensity and Seduction — virtues that have kept the theater going seemingly nonstop. Without missing a season since its beginning, DBDT renews itself by bringing in four new dancers to the troupe — not to mention last year’s move from the Majestic Theater into the Wyly Theatre, and its new home at the old Moreland YMCA in the Arts District.

Williams, with executive director Zenetta S. Drew, has steered the organization into its rightful place among Dallas arts.

“There’s been such a boon of the arts in Dallas,” Williams says. “I hope it continues with the economic times, but we’ve also been privileged to have these arts in this town. Plus, it’s exciting that we have the theater. We can actually plan a series.”

On both sides of the stage, the theater has had its own connection with the LGBT community. In past seasons, and even in the upcoming one, the theater has performed works by noted gay choreographers.  In February, the theater performs its Cultural Awareness Series including Smoke by Fort Worth’s Bruce Wood.

“For our dancers, the stigma of being gay has not hindered them or anyone not one bit,” Williams says of the welcoming approach the DBDT has taken toward the gay community— whether in the seats or onstage. “When I audition a dancer or talk to a potential employee, dance must be their passion. But I want everyone to remain individuals. I don’t want to see anyone hold something in. The only time I want to see people fitting in is during rehearsals. That’s the only time I have for cohesiveness.”

This season starts with the fifth annual DanceAfrica Festival at the Majestic. Despite its new home, DBDT keeps some ties to its former stage. The October event features dance, music art and cuisine of Africa.

This also marks a season of collaborations. DBDT teams up with the Dallas Museum of Art for African Masks: The Art of Disguise in October, the Irving Symphony for Hope Boykin’s in-ter-pret and perhaps the most anticipated, the Dallas Theater Center’s July production of The Wiz. All of this has Williams pretty excited.

“This is going to be so cool! There will be over 55 performers in this show,” she says.

The collaboration combines the Wyly’s two resident companies, and should also introduce Dallas Black Dance Theatre to new audiences it might not have gotten on its own. Williams finds that even today, the theater can break barriers.

“We have had very supportive audiences,” she says, “but we always want to reach out to others and embrace new fans.”

Growing from a basement space academy over three decades ago, Williams is aware that she has created an arts legacy for this city — even if she can’t believe it.

“I’m very humbled by who we are. It is still surprising,” she says. “When I see those beautiful dancers onstage working together, it brings tears of joy.  It really does.

And she wants to remind the audiences that they can expect a great season, but be prepared for the next.
“Thirty-five is right around the corner,” she says with a smirk. “That is the year we will really show out.”

Dallas Black Dance Theatre
2700 Flora St. The 2010-11 season begins with the
5th Annual DanceAfrica Festival
The Majestic Theater, 1925 Elm St.
Oct. 8–9. $10. Season tickets $96–$208. 214-871-2376.
DBDT.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 27, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas