“A Gathering” totals $60k in proceeds

From the rehearsal for "A Gathering."

So how many people does it take to make A Gathering? About a thousand, it seems. That’s about how many folks turned out for the Tuesday evening event,  raising an estimated $60,000 in the process (a full figure will be available after all the donations made that evening and still coming in by are tabulated). Organizers are even continuing to bargain over some of the hard costs, getting more donated or reduced to maximize the donations to the four AIDS beneficiaries.

That’s great, but what was really great was how the show came together, moving quickly and movingly with terrific performances from all involved. Keep it up, and this could (should) become a habit.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Movie review: ‘Blue Valentine’

Although Blue Valentine is about the disintegration of a straight couple’s marriage, the themes, scenes and emotions it deals with could be out of any relationship: The awkward silences, the cold touches, the largely unspoken anger, the rebuffed affection, the meaningless disagreements. There are moments of tenderness, but they are made all the sadder because we see them in flashback. It’s over for these two.

I’ve been in this kind of relationship. I’m sure most people have. And it’s not pretty.

Sound like a happy film? Yeah, it’s not. But it is very real.

It’s also the kind of film that invites “process” reviews — that is, stories about the making of the film itself and its style: the hand-held camera and improvised dialogue resulting from weeks of off-set rehearsal with stars Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams (Heath Ledger’s widow), who lived together as a married couple for weeks to get into the skins of the characters. That accounts for the realism — authenticity trumps contrivance, character supersedes plot.

You can’t call that a bad thing, but it can be difficult to watch. Cindy (Williams) and Dean (Gosling) are a young couple with a sweet 5-year-old daughter, but their marriage is failing. In fact, by the time the movie begins, it’s basically over. Both from working-class backgrounds — Dean is a housepainter and mover, Cindy is a nurse — but Cindy seems to feel trapped by Dean’s lack of ambition. She likes his goofy charm, his grand acts of romanticism, but she doesn’t seem challenged by him. “I thought the whole point of coming here was to have a night without kids,” she snipes when he takes her to a fantasy motel and begins making animal noises. Ouch.

Director Derek Cianfrance approximates John Cassavetes’ patented way of creating pained realism not from meaningful dialogue or fancy camerawork, but by intense observation of small moments between people. He hops between the beginnings of their courtship and the dissolve with only subtle visual cues. He also allows Gosling and Williams to sparkle in their roles. Both are likely Oscar contenders, so intense and measured are their performances.

Blue Valentine isn’t the best date movie, but it is, in some ways, an ideal break-up movie, one that makes you feel you’re not alone in that pain.

Now playing at Landmark’s Magnolia Theatre in the West Village. Rated R (after an original NC-17 rating for explicit sex). 118 mins.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

It is ON: Gay choral groups wager on World Series

During major sporting events, we’re all used to the “friendly” bets between the mayors of the competing towns: Mayor X will wear a cheese hat if his team loses, and Mayor Y will ride to council meetings on horseback for a week.

But now the gays are at it — and not just the publishers of LGBT newspapers.

The Turtle Creek Chorale has a wager going with the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus over the eventual outcome of the Rangers-Giants series. The bet: The artistic director of the chorus in the losing team’s city will have to wear the other chorus’ garb — whatever that might be — for a rehearsal to be taped and provided to the winner chorus, and maybe even sing a pro-winner song. And as you can imagine, the gays are taking it seriously. “Bring it!” taunts the Frisco team on their Facebook page. “Fear the Beard!”

Of note is that the director of SFGMC is a woman. You might think that this would cow TCC director Jonathan Palant. But we have it on good authority he kinda likes dressing in women’s clothes — just look:

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Ladies first

The Women’s Chorus of Dallas proves just why the city needs them

M.M. Adjarian  | Contributing Writer MMAdjarian@GMail.com

The Women’s Chorus of Dallas
LADIES FOR CHOIR | The Women’s Chorus of Dallas plans to go above and beyond on their next season.

GALA CHORUS CONCERT
With the Turtle Creek Chorale. Cathedral of Hope,
5910 Cedar Springs Road
Sept. 5 at 4 p.m. GalaChoruses.org or TWCD.org.

For more than 20 years, the Women’s Chorus of Dallas thrived, happily performing with  SMU’s Caruth Auditorium as its base of operation. But when the chance came last March to become one of the companies based in the new AT&T Performing Arts Center, the group leapt at the opportunity.

“It was pretty powerful when we first moved in there and had our first rehearsal,” recalls Melinda Imthurn, TWCD’s artistic director. “It felt like a different chorus. The women — I could just see it in their faces and hear it in their voices — felt [like] they were home.”

The chorus had arrived — in more ways than one. The move sent a clear message about TWCD’s importance as a Dallas arts organization, and “[as a specifically] women’s arts organization in the Arts District,” says Imthurn. The group does their part to let Dallas shine as part of this weekend’s Gala Choruses Annual

Leadership Conference and plays host, with the Turtle Creek Chorale, as the resident vocal groups of this area.

Like most music groups of its kind, the chorus —originally founded in 1989 as a lesbian community arts organization — started small. The Women’s Chorus has matured into a group with a diverse membership and a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic face reflective of the city’s denizens. Choral performers come from all walks of life and sexual orientations and bring with them a wide range of musical talents, abilities and skills.

That diversity doesn’t stop at the kinds of women who perform with the chorus. The group incorporates costumes, dancing and the spoken word into its concerts, enhancing the overall vocal vibrancy. As Imthurn explains, these performance extras, combined with concerts that are scripted to more resemble theatrical presentations, “make the music more accessible to people, especially those who might not have experience with choral music.”

And then there’s the superbly eclectic repertoire. Much of what TWCD performs at any given concert is choral music from the venerable European tradition. But there are the musical surprises that include everything from Billboard hits to Broadway show tunes to African folk songs … all presented without missing a stylistic beat. TWCD prides itself on being appropriate to each genre. “[It’s] something the chorus works hard at,” says Imthurn.

In keeping with its mission to promote the “strength, diversity and joy of women,” much of the material that the chorus presents is, one way or another, woman-centered. And it is one of the few organizations that gives voice, both literally and figuratively, to lesbian themes onstage. One of the upcoming projects that Imthurn is especially excited about for the 2010–11 season is a performance at the Texas Discovery Garden for Mother’s Day.

“What we’ll be doing for that particular performance is first [to] sing songs that honor mothers, grandmothers, parental-type figures, mentors, teachers and secondly [to sing songs] about nature,” Imthurn says. TWCD members will then encircle the garden’s butterfly sanctuary and 100 butterflies will be released.

TWCD also maintains a keen sense of social mission. It has actively raised awareness of issues pertaining to AIDS and domestic violence prevention; it also participates in fundraising for such organizations as AIDS LifeWalk, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, and the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition.

According to Imthurn, in everything it does, the chorus is clearly a group that takes the “art” in “heart” and brings it to a new level … which is what drew Imthurn — who started as a performer with TWCD in 2004 — to the group in the first place.

“What made me fall in love with the chorus was the heart of the chorus and the heart you can hear in the music,” she says.

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

—  Kevin Thomas

Local Briefs • 07.30.10

OL Library Friends holding information meeting on budget

Oak Lawn Library Friends will hold an information meeting on the city of Dallas budget reductions and their impact on library users from 6-8 p.m. Thursday August 5th at the library audtorium, 4100 Cedar Springs Road. The meeting will offer details on a proposal to organize volunteers to save library services.

Women’s Chorus of Dallas inviting interested singers to rehearsals

The Women’s Chorus of Dallas will hold open rehearsals for women interested in joining the chorus on Monday, Aug. 9, and Monday, Aug. 16, beginning promptly at 7 p.m. both evening.

Interested singers are invited to sit in on a rehearsal, meet with members of the chorus and learn more about becoming a member.

The Women’s Chorus of Dallas offers women the opportunity to sing classical choral repertoire, as well as popular music and songs from many other genres. Neither prior experience nor the ability to read music is a requirement for membership.

Regular season rehearsals are held every Monday from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Sammons Center for the Arts, 3630 Harry Hines Blvd. Members are expected to attend every rehearsal.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 30, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas