Sometimes you don’t know how much you miss something until you find it again. That’s what it felt like Saturday night at the Turtle Creek Chorale’s 35th anniversary concert at City Performance Hall. When the curtain rose on the first half, audiences were pleased to see a full complement of tuxedoed men, ably led by interim artistic director Sean Baugh. They were delighted by the singing. But when Act 2 opened and the ranks had increased by 50 percent — and, at the end, with the addition of members of The Women’s Chorus of Dallas, fully doubled if not more — there were audible gasps from the audience. This is the chorale longtime fans remember. And many were there to walk down memory lane with Tim Seelig.
Seelig led the chorale for 20 years — from 1987 to 2007 — and has been the head of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus since 2011, so this reunion was filled with memories … not the least of which was Seelig’s gift for gab and his snarky humor, which he amply shared from the stage.
But it was also the performance of the chorale — not just during Seelig’s set, but Baugh’s as well — that seemed invigorated, inspired. The past two seasons have been hard ones. Baugh spoke more from the stage in six songs than I think former director Trey Jacobs did in two years, and while no one can imitate Seelig, the chorale is always best when its whimsy, sincerity and Texas personality come through. Just as important is its commitment to the gay character of Dallas, something the recently departed executive director shied away from during her disastrous tenure. All that made these past years unmemorable ones for the chorale; Saturday night was not only a concert for remembering past glory days, but — with Baugh and new interim E.D. Bruce Jaster in place — a reason to feel excited that more such days are destined for the future.
At the end, Seelig made an spontaneous plea to the audience to commit to giving — “$5, $10, $100, $10,000 if you have it” — a donation to the chorale within the next three months to keep this significant group (one of the oldest gay men’s choruses in the country, and perhaps the world’s most recorded men’s chorus of all time) alive and kicking for another 35 years. “I won’t be here then,” Seelig said, “but the chorale needs to be.” And after Saturday’s concert, it feels not like empty hope, but an actual, achievable mission.