Safe bet

Turtle Creek Chorale plays it safe for the holidays — and it shows

concert-2

SANTA’S BACK | The Turtle Creek Chorale continues its tradition of bringing ol’ Saint Nick out for its Christmas concert, but some tweaks might make the show feel more contemporary. (Photo courtesy TCC)

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Tradition is a funny thing, especially during the holidays. Christmas doesn’t feel like Christmas without Charlie Brown and his sad little tree, or driving through neighborhoods to gawk at the twinkling lights. But while changing routines can shake things up, it’s also a good way to start new traditions.

In the Turtle Creek Chorale’s holiday show My Favorite Things, many of the chorus’ traditions remain intact: The poinsettia dedication, Santa Claus ho-ho-hoing it up, a sign-language version of “Silent Night,” But a spike in the egg nog would not be out of place.

To be fair, the chorale underwent some major changes in the last few months, appointing both a new executive director, David Fisher, and interim conductor, Trey Jacobs, who has had to hit the ground running with a season (and dates!) already announced. You can grant them some slack for that, but the chorale’s opening concert, while at times inspiring, could also feel anemic.

Getting off to an energetic start, a crew of members tells the audience about their indulgences before launching into the show’s title track performance. A humorous and high-spirited tone kicked off the show gloriously, followed by the gorgeously majestic “Gloria Fanfare.” Jacobs wields a confident hold over the solid-sounding voices of the chorale. But that energy takes a major nosedive with a troika of serious and somber numbers.

The small Encore group turn up the silly factor with “An Elf’s Life” but miss the mark. The voices are reliable, but the cast lacks the panache needed for the bit to soar. The number is saved by an Occupy North Pole elf that generates major laughs and applause. The first act ends almost as soon as it begins with spirits high in the always punchy “We Need a Little Christmas.”

Although I don’t quite get the monks-versus-nuns concept for “Hallelujah,” the second half opener is hilarious as singers combine flag corps and Bob Dylan, lifting lyrics on cards in choreographed fashion. Whether on purpose or not, the small mistakes with upside-down cards or missed signals add a comic layer that hopefully they’ll keep.

The same can be said for “Jingle Bells,” as members demonstrate some fancy foot-stepping — part ballet, part drill team, but charming as heck. When confusion ensues as they link arms, it ends up being flat-out hysterical, adding volumes to the light-hearted tone.

These gaffes contribute wonderful charm to the show. But they might consider reverting from the live retelling of “The Christmas Story According to Linus” to the actual recording; a man dressed as Linus just doesn’t convey the tender heart of the original. The accompanying live Nativity only reminds me of my one-line role as a shepherd in my elementary school play, and The Sound of Music’s Maria is a running gag through the show that never quite works.

At times, My Favorite Things is weighed down by an abundance of downbeat songs in succession, and a lack of contemporary tunes does allow for younger audiences (not children necessarily, either) to be reeled in. The twenty-somethings in front of me didn’t seem to connect with the show, giggling and whispering during some of the songs.

But My Favorite Things is still a solid show, even with some misguided nuances. Opening night jitters were apparent, but gave an unexpectedly welcome relief to the concert. Fisher’s poinsettia dedication was anecdotal and beautifully poetic and Jacobs handled the chorale and the audience with experienced savvy. The dreary rain and biting cold didn’t dampen the audience as that other annual chorale tradition occurred: The standing ovation.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Dallas’ vocal adrenaline

VOP runners-up raised the bar for everyone this year

Voice of Pride winner Mel Arizpe knew this was a great year to win the contest, with the new groups category and the trip to England, but she also knew it was the toughest yet. She and the other finalists all agree the competition was stronger than ever: Third through fifth place took home prize money, but also released a collective sigh just to make it on the proverbial podium this time around.

Runners-up Juliana Jeffrey, Angie Landers and Robert Olivas give some insight to their experience at this year’s competition and how firsts always seem to happen, no matter how long they’ve been competing.

— Rich Lopez

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The Bridesmaid: Juliana Jeffrey, 2d  runner-up
Competition songs: “Here Comes Goodbye” by Rascal Flatts and “So Small” by Carrie Underwood.

Why these songs? I love the Underwood song, no question. I pick songs I really love or feel like I’m going through. I was just like Eek! But I don’t think my first song was a good choice.

What changed from last year? The talent was a lot better. Everybody was good and I think more people are finding out about it. It felt different this year — there wasn’t a lot of bonding like before. Every year I’ve made a friend. There was a lot more pressure.

TROIKA | Jeffrey, left, Landers, center, and Olivas gave the also-ran list star power. (Dallas Voice/ Arnold Wayne Jones)

Did the trip to England affect your performance? Who doesn’t wanna go to England? But personally, I try not to think about the prizes. It’s added stress. I like amazing singers and that makes me wanna be better.

You’re a VOP veteran. Would you rather win or keep placing and racking up change? Hey, all I can say is my rent is paid! The reason I do it every year is because I have so much fun with people I meet. We hang out.

Any immediate musical plans? I’m 29 but I don’t really have anything to show for my singing. So, I need to get more serious about that. But I gotta work these 40 hours a week. It’s tough, but I gotta make a demo.

Any thoughts on next year’s Voice of Pride? I know what to expect and I know what motions to go through so that’s relaxing. I think next year I will broaden my song choices. I just don’t wanna put myself in a box. I tell myself I’m gonna step out of this country box, but I never really know what judges are looking for. I just go with what feels good and pray for the best. I just try to do me.
The Breakthrough: Angie Landers, 3d runner-up
Competition songs: “I Drove All Night” and “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion.

Any second thoughts? No, though I tend to think that I should have shown my country side as well as my pop side. There’s always next year.

How was it when your name was called? Oh my gosh, it was such a surreal moment.

Do you pick songs you like or that will sound good? I only perform songs that touch me or I enjoy, but for competition I try to choose songs that show off who I am and what I can do.

How do you prepare? Practice — in my living room!


The Dude: Robert Olivas, 4th runner-up

Competition songs: “Hey, Soul Sister” by Train and “Remember When It Rained” by Josh Groban.

Why these two? I love those songs and I wanted to show my range. I’ve been paying attention to the judges’ comments and I wanted to win the crowd. But dang, the gays love their women singers.

Yeah, you were the highest placed male this year. The competition was gonna be so strong and it was all about the women this year.

How’d you strategize? I made it my business to go to the preliminaries and see the competition. I’ve grown to see what judges are looking for.

When did you start singing? I started singing about four but didn’t have training until my girlfriend at the time talked me into taking a vocal class at UTEP.

What did you learn about yourself this time? I’ve only made finals three times so I’m proving that I can be consistent.

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It takes two

Mel Arizpe, far right, and Laura Carrizales had quite  summer. The real-life couple took the No. 1 and 2 spots in the solo competition at Voice of Pride and scored the inaugural group competition victory. As Mi Diva Loca, the duo won over the crowd with their second performance, a medley of pop hits which might have been risky. “Because it wasn’t a whole song, we wondered if the judges would see past that into our harmonies,” Carrizales says. “These were just songs we liked.” They also got to perform at Pride in Manchester, England.

If you missed ’em before, though, you can catch them (plus third place Juliana Jeffrey) riding in the parade Sunday, followed by a performance at the festival in Lee Park afterward.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 17, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens