GALA leaders meeting in Dallas this weekend

Palant hopes annual leadership conference will lead to chance for  Dallas to host 2016 choral festival

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Turtle Creek Chorale
REHEARSING | Members of the Turtle Creek Chorale warm up before rehearsal this week to prepare for a performance at Cathedral of Hope as part of the GALA leadership conference. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

The annual GALA Choruses leadership conference began Thursday, Sept. 2 at the Warwick Melrose Hotel in Dallas and continues through Sunday, Sept. 5.

The annual convention focuses on both the artistic and administrative sides of managing choral groups. Every four years, the full choruses gather for a choral festival.

In 2012, the festival will be held in Denver. Dallas was in the running but lost the summer event to Colorado’s milder climate.

But Jonathan Palant, artistic director of Dallas’ Turtle Creek Chorale, said this weekend’s conference is “a wonderful precursor to a much larger festival that will one day come to this city.”
He said he hopes to bring the quadrennial festival to Dallas in 2016.

“We have the venues,” he said. “We have the hotels. We have the Arts District. We have a strong, wonderful GLBT presence in this city.”

Palant described this weekend’s conference as a series of events focusing on three aspects of running a musical non-profit — artistic, executive and membership.

“As an artistic director, this conference is invaluable,” Palant said.

A member of the chorale will present a session for other choruses called, “Getting the most out of your website,” as part of the membership and volunteer portion of the meeting.

Palant said the Chorale is known nationally for its website that promotes the upcoming season, sells tickets, CDs and other merchandise and features musical previews of the group’s performances.

Among the headliners addressing the conference will be Craig Hella Johnson, founder of the Austin-based Conspirare, a professional chamber choir with members from around the country. Johnson is considered one of the most influential voices in choral conducting in the North America.

On Friday, he will lead a six-hour workshop “focusing on repertoire, musicianship, artistry, the roll of musical leadership,” Johnson said.

Johnson talked about the “professionalization of the choral field” and said that audiences have grown to have the same expectations of vocal groups as they do of orchestras.

While Conspirare is not an LGBT group, Johnson said, “As a gay man, I support them as community-builders.”

While the choruses represented in Dallas this weekend range from small ensembles in smaller cities to large choirs like Dallas’ Chorale, Johnson said that the common role of all choral leaders is to inspire.
“We use music to find our way into the greater realm,” he said. “Music is a language that speaks so deeply.”

Craig Hella Johnson
Craig Hella Johnson

On Sunday morning, Palant said they will host a “gospel brunch” at the Rose Room for conference attendees. Denise Lee, Liz Mikel, Gary Floyd, Cedric Neal and Buddy Shanahan will perform.

A number of singers from GALA choruses from around the country will also be at the Melrose this weekend and will perform Sunday afternoon. They will spend the weekend rehearsing a requiem for the 4 p.m. concert at Cathedral of Hope.

The Chorale, the Women’s Chorus of Dallas and the New Texas Symphony Orchestra will perform the first half of the program. The requiem will conclude the concert. Tickets are $15 and available at the door.

GALA was created in 1981 after the formation of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus in 1978 and subsequent groups in New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago and other cities over the next few years. Among that first group of choruses, the Turtle Creek Chorale was established in 1979.

The first national festival took place in 1983 when 12 choruses with a total of 1,200 singers performed at Alice Tully Hall in New York’s Lincoln Center. The annual leadership conference began the following year in Denver.

At the Miami festival in 2008, a new part-time rotating artistic director-in-residence program was launched. Tim Seelig, currently the artistic director of Dallas’ mixed voices choir Resounding Harmony, was elected to serve in that national position for a year.

Veronica Torres of the Dallas Convention and Visitor’s Bureau said that GALA knows Dallas is interested in hosting the 2016 festival. She is waiting for the organization to put out a call for bids before sending them any new information about the city.

She said that if the city were awarded the festival, it would use all of the venues in the Arts District including the new City Performance Hall that has begun construction.

With several years advance notice, Torres said, reserving all of the venues for GALA’s numerous performances would not present a scheduling problem.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 3, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Off-duty Dallas police officer accused of choking gay man at W Hotel after Lady Gaga concert

We’re getting preliminary reports about a possible anti-gay incident that occurred last night at the W Hotel in Dallas following the Lady Gaga concert at the American Airlines Center. Malcolm Gage, a prominent local gay businessman, alleges that an off-duty Dallas police officer working security denied his group access to the hotel when they tried to visit a friend who was staying there. Gage said he believes the officer had an issue with the hotel’s LGBT clients. Gage also said that this same officer choked Derrick Brown, chairman of the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce. Both Gage and Brown are black. Here’s Gage’s full description:

“To give you all the cliff notes of this, basically the W Hotel had security last night from the Dallas PD and one particular officer, F. Phelps (Badge #19018) apparently must have had an issue with the LGBT clients of the hotel. We were threatened with criminal trespass for simply trying to go into the hotel to visit friends staying there, in addition, another guy was CHOKED for no apparent reason. Then the hotel solidified it by having the night manager deny entry to us and several others trying to get in. There is obviously more to this story, but telling patrons you need a key just to walk into the hotel is absurd. This is going to be a major PR issue for the W Hotel and the Dallas PD because the gentleman who was choked is even more livid than I am. As a community, we cannot let these things go unnoticed and by not supporting this hotel is the first way we can do that. They will NEVER see my money ever again, nor will I support ANY of their efforts.”

We have messages in to W Hotel General Manager Thomas Caramucci and a Dallas police spokesman about this incident. We’ll update as soon as we hear back.

UPDATE: Here is the response I received late Saturday morning from DPD Sr. Cpl. Kevin Janse, a spokesman for the department:

“I do not show any calls for police out at the W Hotel last night other than officer Phelps documenting a minor disturbance in an elevator but no arrests made and all parties left. So, there is nothing to report on or comment on from this office unless the alleged victim(s) has filed an official complaint with internal affairs. Had he been choked I would hope he would have asked for a supervisor or called 911 but neither of those happened. Perhaps the W has documentation of what took place.”

Via Facebook, here is Brown’s description of the choking incident, which reportedly was separate from the encounter between the officer and Gage’s group:

“A group of us were walking to Ghostbar after the concert. The off duty officer claimed that I grabbed him (which I did not). When trying to tell him so, he grabbed my neck, pushed and pinned me against the wall by my neck telling me to shut up. Needless to say, I am outraged and will ensure action is taken to prevent it happening to someone else in our community.”

And this from Laura Martin, DPD’s LGBT liaison officer:

“I was notified of this complaint this morning from our public information office. I want all of you to know every excessive force complaint is taken seriously. My supervisors are aware of the complaint and are gathering the facts. I am already in contact with Mr Gage and Mr Brown. When the formal complaint is made with internal affairs, every witness will be interviewed. If anyone who witnessed the incident would like to contact me, please send an email to laura.martin@dpd.ci.dallas.tx.us.”

—  John Wright