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

Chorale to hold open auditions

The Turtle Creek Chorale, on the heals of its successful holiday concerts last month, is looking for new blood — though Edward Cullen isn’t involved. The chorale will hold open rehearsal and orientation at the TCC’s offices in the Sammons Center for the Arts at 3630 Harry Hines Blvd. on Tuesday, Jan. 4, from 7 to 10 p.m., and prospective members are asked to attend and participate. The actual auditions for any singers interested in joining the gay men’s chorus will occur on Sunday, Jan. 9, from 3 to 6 p.m. an the Grace United Methodist Church at 4105 Junius St.

All vocal parts (tenor, bass, baritone … even countertenor if you got the chops) are open. To view a video sample of an actual audition, go here, or to learn more about the chorale, go to TurtleCreek.org.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Turtle Creek Chorale helps Adolphus Hotel make First Baptist Church’s ‘Nice List’

The Turtle Creek Chorale will perform from noon to 1 p.m. today at the Adolphus Hotel to kick off WRR 101.1 FM’s weeklong Caroling at the Adolphus series, a live program of seasonal choral music. You can watch the TCC’s performance in person while enjoying complimentary coffee, cider and cookies, but you may want to head out soon because seating is limited and on a first-come, first-serve basis. And of course if you can’t make it just tune in to WRR in about 40 minutes.

It’s great to see TCC as part of Caroling at the Adolphus this year, especially since the series has helped land the hotel on First Baptist’s Church’s “Nice List.” Given that our submissions to the list for the Round-Up’s Christmas decorations have been rejected, this may be the closest we come to beating the system. Unfortunately Caroling at the Adolphus will become slightly less gay-affirming on Tuesday when the Highland Park Presbyterian Church Chorale performs.

—  John Wright

TCC board member will match $500 donations with every song dedication at ‘O Holy Night’ show

The Turtle Creek Chorale just sent over the below notice in which board member Brian Rogers talks up family and tradition. It’s sweet. In it, he proposes a pretty original idea — sponsoring a carol as a sort of glorified dedication. For a $500 donation to the chorale, you can dedicate “Silent Night” to your parents, partner, children, etc. Kinda cool, right? Well, if you have that kinda change, definitely. To sweeten the pot though, Rogers is matching every single donation until Nov. 30. Your dedication will appear in the program, and you’ll get a framed version of it.

This can be tough, though. My favorite carol changes every year, and so far, I haven’t hunkered down with my Christmas music yet. Does Weezer’s “Holiday” count? The Turtle Creek Chorale performs its annual holiday show, O Holy Night, Dec. 15, 20 and 22 at the Meyerson. For tickets, click here.

—  Rich Lopez

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

TCU teams with TCC for Haiti concert

Texas Christian University’s Concert Chorale will join the Turtle Creek Chorale for a benefit concert at the Cathedral of Hope next week.

The concert, organized by TCC artistic director Jonathan Palant as a fundraiser to provide aid to disaster-ravaged Haiti, will mark the first the the TCU group will have shared a stage with Dallas’ gay men’s chorus, or appeared at the COH.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones