‘Tyler’s Suite’ is another notch on the Chorale’s belt


Tyler Clementi

Heroes is a concert unlike anything else the Turtle Creek Chorale has ever done. But that just makes it like a regular evening at the concert hall with the Chorale. If the group was afraid of tackling something new, they wouldn’t have an Emmy Award or be the most recorded men’s chorus in history.

In Heroes, what the Chorale does best is let others shine and helps make those others even better, while still being fabulous on their own.

Six community groups are honored in the first half of Heroes. The organizations were chosen because of the work they’ve done helping LGBT people form families and raise children, healing spiritual wounds, stopping bullying, healing through art and  raising money to work for equality.

Wait a minute. Isn’t that exactly what the Chorale has done over the years? Of course, but nothing’s wrong with honoring friends and those we admire. And that’s what this concert does.

Short videos about each group precede a song that honors the spirit of the organization and explain its work.

I’d like to add a few words to what is expressed in the first video about Jonathan’s Place.

Jonathan’s Place is an emergency shelter for abused and neglected children who are waiting for foster or adoptive homes. The video assumes everyone knows they’re just looking for the best placement for these children, and to Jonathan’s Place that means if a trans adoptive mom is best to provide the love these children need, that’s where the child will be placed. That’s never said in the concert but this organization was a pioneer in Texas in LGBT adoption and fostering.

A warning: If you visit Jonathan’s Place, be prepared to leave upset and angry. It is infuriating to see what people have done to these children.

Each honored group was given a glass turtle, but a video shows what went into each turtle. From plaster to clay to wax to bronze to poured glass, each step fired in a kiln and cooled. Kind of one of those nothing-to-do-with-the-music things, but one of the most interesting elements of the evening, that showed what kind of love went into putting this concert together.

Among the stand-out moments from the first half was the performance of “Fight Song” for Susan G. Komen and “I Never Lost My Praise” for Cathedral of Hope. The first had the audience standing and cheering, the second had them swaying and joining in.

Eight dancers from the Bruce Wood Dance Project performed two pieces that hooked the audience. The BWDP’s next show will have to add a performance just to accommodate the new fans they’re adding from their chorale appearances this weekend.

The second half of the show is Tyler’s Suite, commissioned by the Tyler Clementi Foundation and put together by Stephen Schwartz, the composer of shows like Wicked and Pippin. Eight composers each wrote one of pieces that comprise the suite. The lyrics are by Pamela Stewart, a librettist and lyricist who also wrote the Chorale’s award-winning Sing for the Cure that took the group to Carnegie Hall.

Tyler was the Princeton freshman who committed suicide after his roommate set up a camera in their room and live-streamed and tweeted about him having sex with another man. The suite is not just about Tyler, but the people in his life who loved him. Alex Heika and Jodi Crawford Wright, as Tyler and his mom, are both superb, as are the soloists from the Chorale.

Each piece was written by a different composer and most, if not all would stand on its own. Jake Hegge’s “The Narrow Bridge” has been performed alone. “Just a Boy” is a beautiful tribute from a father to a son he’s lost. The lyrics were words Tyler’s dad sent off after not being able to sleep one night. Stewart used them. “The Unicycle Song” tells the story of a creative child ending his life.

And I know I’m not mentioning enough about the Chorale, but that’s how successfully they performed Tyler’s Suite. I was engrossed in the music without even thinking about the wonderful chorus of voices performing it.

Tyler’s Suite has been performed now by six choruses that started two years ago with Tim Seelig’s San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus. In the lobby, I spoke to a couple of SFGMC board members who attended, as well as Tyler’s mom and his brother, James.

“So this was the best performance of Tyler’s Suite?” I asked. “Much better than San Francisco, right?”

Sheesh, try to get some people to open up. Some people are much more diplomatic than I am.

I loved this performance. They would only agree this was among the finest of the Tyler’s Suite performances.

Eh. What do they know. Artistic Director Sean Baugh was inspired to invite Albert Drake from Bruce Wood to choreograph the piece “Meditation.” Others didn’t have Peter Mena and Charles Mullins performing “Brother, Because of You.” The Chorale was fabulous. Tickets are still available for tonight or Saturday. Oh, on Saturday, the Susan G. Komen chorus will be joining the Chorale for “Fight Song.” Talk about heroes.

And in case you thought the Clementis were just in town enjoying great music: James said he would be speaking to classes about bullying at SMU today.

—  David Taffet

Chorale announces upcoming season of concerts for 2015–16


TCC music director Sean Baugh.

It was just this weekend that the Turtle Creek Chorale concluded its 35th season, and now just a few days later we know what to look forward to.

The four mainstage shows, all of which will take place at the City Performance Hall, begins with Heartland: An American Songbook, featuring everything from showtunes from Gershwin and Rodgers & Hammerstein through folk classics by Woody Gurthie and Bob Dylan. Oct. 9 and 10.

Next up will be, of course, the traditional concert of holiday music, Home. Dec. 17, 18, 19 and 20. The spring concert is entitled Heroes, with the first half devoted to honoring members of the community who have been role models and leaders; the second half will be a performance of the choral work Tyler’s Suite, written in honor of Tyler Clementi, the gay student who committed suicide after being bullied online. March 31, April 1 and 2.

The season will conclude a year from now with the summer concert, Heartstrings, which tracks the emotional roller coaster from first date to first heartbreak, as expressed by composers from Beethoven to Lady Gaga. June 9, 10 and 11.

You can get your season tickets here or by calling 214-526-3214.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

The Turtle Creek Chorale is back and better than ever


TCC Artistic Director Sean Baugh (photo H Henley)

Have you ever walked out of a Turtle Creek Chorale concert grinning from ear to ear and singing? Saturday night’s performance had people out of their seats cheering one of the best shows the group has ever performed.

And that’s wasn’t just me saying it. That was one person after another I heard after the show at City Performance Hall on Saturday.

The audience at Saturday night’s Britten, Beatles & Bond was clapping along from the opening Beatles number and not just cheering but giving standing ovations throughout the evening.

The reception was well deserved.

This was Artistic Director Sean Baugh’s first concert since being named permanently to the position. He’s been acting artistic director since last summer. This was also acting Executive Director Bruce Jaster’s first concert since taking the position earlier this year. May the two have a long and continued successful tenure together. They’re obviously the right combination the chorale needed.

Jaster, a former singer and board member, was at ease dressed as Sgt. Pepper — I think he was more Dr Pepper — and Baugh has gotten better and better with each concert he’s conducted this season. He’s made that stage his own in less a full season on stage. All the fun the audience remembers from a Tim Seelig concert is back and Baugh’s breadth of music knowledge is apparent from the minute he picks up his baton through his final bow.

If you’ve ever been a Turtle Creek Chorale fan but have stayed away lately, it’s time to give the Chorale another look. There’s another concert this weekend called Musica de Mayo at 7:30 p.m. on May 2 the Latino Cultural Center.

Featuring small ensembles and soloists from the chorale, the Hotchkiss Elementary School Choir and Mi Diva Loca, the sizzling music celebrates Latino culture and heritage just in time for Cinco de Mayo. The evening honors Sheriff Lupe Valdez. Tickets are $25-35 and available online.

Turtle-ly 80s on June 12-14 celebrates the chorale’s founding decade of teased hair, baggy pants and more and is a chance to sing along with those 150 or more fabulous voices. Tickets for that performance are available here.

—  David Taffet

Sean Baugh named TCC artistic director


Turtle Creek Chorale Artistic Director Sean Baugh

Sean Baugh, who has been serving as associate artistic director of the Turtle Creek Chorale this season, has been named permanent artistic director.

Chorale Executive Director Bruce Jaster said the singing membership strongly supported the appointment and the announcement during the Chorale’s Tuesday night rehearsal was met with a standing ovation.

Throughout the season, Baugh has reversed declining attendance and recent shows have been sold out.

Jaster said Baugh would work with the Chorale full time and reduce his affiliation with Cathedral of Hope to part time. Thursday rehearsals and Sunday services would continue at CoH under Baugh’s direction.

“Cathedral of Hope is my spiritual home,” Baugh said. “I’m excited to be able to continue my work there as well. Both organizations are dear to me and I cannot imagine my musical life without both of them working in tandem.”

Baugh has been with the chorale nine years. He joined during former artistic director Tim Seelig’s final season. Through most of his tenure at TCC, he has been a conductor of specialty groups and has also served as an officer of the organization.

Jaster said planning has begun for the 2015-16 season that will be announced before this season’s final concert in June.

The next concert, entitled “Britain, Beatles and Bond,” takes place April 23-25 at City Performance Hall. Tickets are now on sale.

This weekend, the Chorale performs twice — at the DIFFA event on Saturday and at a memorial for former Chorale president Chet Flake at 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 8 at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, 6525 Inwood Road.

—  David Taffet

The constancy of change

Everything changes but the dedication of the Turtle Creek Chorale members, TCC president says

SEAN BAUGH  |  Special Contributor

In the song “Change,” Melissa Etheridge sings, “The only thing that stays the same is change.” As president of the Turtle Creek Chorale, I am here to tell you, that quote applies to all of us.

The Turtle Creek Chorale is not immune to change, and we have certainly experienced our share over the past 31 years.

Honestly, though, five artistic directors in 31 years? That’s a pretty good track record for leadership when compared with senior management trends in the non-profit and artistic communities.

Change came to us last week in the form of news that Dr. Jonathan Palant was leaving the chorale. Jonathan has been my friend as well as the chorus’ artistic director.

His departure is a tremendous loss for so many of us.

I know my fellow chorale members well enough to say that we’ll weather this change, just as we have weathered many a difficult time. We have survived the AIDS crisis; we can survive anything.

It is our daily challenges that make the Turtle Creek Chorale what we are today: a strong, resilient and dedicated community of singers, friends and brothers.

With comings and goings also come growth and an incredible journey. The chorale will continue to sing with an even stronger voice as we rally to support our new artistic leadership.

In the coming weeks we will begin a nationwide search for the next artistic director, and you can rest assured that he (or she!) will meet a vibrant and dedicated group of men that recognizes its history and lives up to its reputation as one of the finest choirs in the world.

As Melissa’s lyrics coax us:

“And so it goes
This too shall pass away
It cuts so strange
The only thing that stays the same
Is change.”

In the coming weeks, the Turtle Creek Chorale kicks off its 32nd season with auditions for new members and rehearsals starting Aug. 23. I invite you to join us either by purchasing season subscriptions, giving to the chorale or singing with the TCC.

We, the Turtle Creek Chorale — the decorated Dallas, Texas men’s chorus — will continue on our mission to entertain, educate, unite and uplift our community. We are, and will be, an organization that you can be proud of.

This — I can assure you Miss Etheridge — will never change.

Sean Baugh is president of Turtle Creek Chorale. For more information on the chorale, go online to TurtleCreekChorale.org

—  John Wright