He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother: Chorale comforts the community

Denise Lee

Denise Lee performs in the Songs for Healing concert with Turtle Creek Chorale on Tuesday night at Cathedral of Hope.

Turtle Creek Chorale Artistic Director Sean Baugh woke up on Monday morning at 5:30 a.m. and knew he needed to do something in response to the Orlando attacks. So he started sending emails. One after another, members of the Chorale responded, saying they would participate.

Baugh quickly pulled together a program — Songs for Healing. Denise Lee said she’d be there with him. Chris Chism said he’d do a solo. Jodi Crawford Wright agreed to reprise “I Love You More,” the mother’s song from Tyler’s Suite, the piece commissioned by the Chorale about the death of Tyler Clementi. Members of Resounding Harmony and of the CoH choir also stepped up to participate.

Cathedral of Hope opened its doors on Tuesday night, June 14, for the community to come and grieve. The Dallas Police Department responded with 60 officers swarming the campus, quietly but visibly making their presence known. DPD Chief David Brown and his officers received their own standing ovation.

Had he had time, Baugh said he would have pulled together photos from news reports of survivors carrying gunshot victims out of Pulse and running with them down the street to the nearby hospital. Even without the visual, the image was clear as they sang, “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother.”

The concert streamed through KERA and WFAA to more than 28,000 people. About 2,000 people filled the church and several hundred more packed the Interfaith Peace Chapel to watch on monitors. Passing a plate raised $15,000 to help cover expenses for the Orlando victim’s families and medical expenses for the survivors.

The Rev. Neil Cazares-Thomas reminded those attending that the men’s choral movement began in San Francisco the night Harvey Milk was shot when a group of men gathered and began to sing.

The concert itself was a testament to the brilliance of the Turtle Creek Chorale. Baugh pulled several songs from last week’s Heartstrings concert but others were from more distant concerts. Without a rehearsal, the performance came off without an apparent glitch. One song after another received a well-deserved standing ovation. Throughout the concert, Chorale members read names of the dead. The crowd left the church still stunned by the massacre but comforted as the community came together.

—  David Taffet

Best Bets • 06.03.16

Tuesday 06.07 — Sunday 06.19

4The-Shirelles-in-Beautiful---The-Carole-King-Musical-on-Broadway-(c)-Joan-Marcus

Feel like a natural woman with ‘Beautiful’ at the Winspear

Carole King — often with sometimes-hubby Gerry Goffin — wrote some of the seminal pop songs of the rock era, from “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” to “Take Good Care of My Baby” to “Up on the Roof” for groups like Aretha, the Righteous Brothers and the Shirelles, pictured, to her own solo hits from her groundbreaking Tapestry album (“You’ve Got a Friend,” “It’s Too Late”). They have the perfect makings for a jukebox musical, which is exactly what Beautiful: The Carole King Musical is. The Tony Award-winning show makes its local debut at the Winspear as part of the AT&T Performing Arts Center’s Broadway Series. Come feel the earth move and watch the sky come tumblin’ down.

DEETS:
Winspear Opera House
2403 Flora St.
ATTPAC.org

Thursday 06.09 — Saturday 06.11

yarn-heart

Chorale closes season in loving fashion with Heartstrings

The best songs are all songs of the heart — love songs, break-up songs, torch songs. All of those will be present in the Turtle Creek Chorale’s season closer, entitled, aptly enough, Heartstrings. But as luck would have it, this lovely, loving concert arrives almost a year after marriage equality became the law, and to celebrate, couples will actually get married during the concerts each night … and to the music of Queen, Cher, Adele, Celine and more. It’s something everyone can open their hearts to.

DEETS:
City Performance Hall
2520 Flora St.
Nightly at 7:30 p.m.
TurtleCreekChorale.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 3, 2016.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Brian and David are getting hitched and we have the license to prove it

In 1991, activists celebrated National Coming Out Day by staging a “kiss-in” in the Dallas County Clerk’s office to protest for marriage equality.

1991 kiss-in

Gary Bellomy, left, and Bill Hunt were among the protesters. The accompanying article didn’t identify who else was there and I can’t make it our from the picture. Mary Franklin, John Thomas and others held a sit-in in the County Clerk’s office on Valentine’s Day sometime in the 1980s.

In 2012, it took four sheriff’s deputies to arrest Major when he and Beau applied for their marriage license and handcuffed themselves to the stanchion in the marriage bureau office when they were turned down.

Major arrested

And that was followed by protesters outside the county courthouse during their court appearances for trying to get a marriage license.

Protests

On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court declared marriage equality law and this happened in Dallas County:

June 26

And today, Brian and I did this. No sheriff’s deputies were called. No arrests were made. No one had to handcuff themselves to anything. No offices were taken over.

The clerk smiled, said congratulations and handed us our license. Someone who works in the building downstairs saw us trying to take a selfie and asked if she could take it for us. That idiot clerk up in Kentucky keeps making news, but thank you Dallas County for making marriage equality so, well, routine.

David and Brian

And thank you Gary and Bill, Beau and Major and everyone else who protested for years to make marriage equality a reality.

And if you’d like to see our wedding in person, everyone’s welcome.

We’re getting married on stage during the second act of Heartstrings, the Turtle Creek Chorale concert on Thursday, June 9 at 7:30 p.m. Beth El Binah’s Rabbi Steve Fisch is officiating. Brian’s mother will walk him across the stage to the chuppa and my Aunt Rhoda is flying in from New York to walk me. And our flower girl? Well, let’s just say she’s a big girl.

After the Chorale performance, we’ll have a reception in the lobby with the biggest damn cake for everyone to share. (The main cake is sour cream champagne with blueberry and key lime layers all covered in a chocolate icing).

OK, so for our bizarre wedding, you need tickets, because it is in the middle of a Turtle Creek Chorale concert. Tickets are available here. And if you’ve never seen a Chorale concert or haven’t been to one in awhile, here’s a good excuse to do it. Cake comes with your ticket. And the bar will be open til midnight.

—  David Taffet

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

Tyler-Clementi

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

Best Bets • 03.25.16

Friday 03.25 & Saturday 03.26

Dancers-Air

All-male Herve Koubi makes Dallas debut

It was just last month that the all-male British dance company BalletBoyz made its Dallas debut, and now another testosterone-filled troupe from across the pond will share its unique take on dance with local audiences for the first time. Cie Herve Koubi showcases bold, masculine movement in a celebrated style that combines capoeira, martial arts and contemporary dance, with dancers culled from Algeria and West Africa in gravity-defying feats of strength.

DEETS:
City Performance Hall
2520 Flora St.
8 p.m.
ATTPAC.org

Tuesday 03.29

xanadu-copy

See a ‘bad movie we love:’ ‘Xanadu’

It killed both the movie musical and disco for a generation, but Xanadu — a terrible movie that’s perversely enjoyable now as high camp — endures in gay culture. It screens as part of New Classics series at the Magnolia, sponsored by Dallas Voice.

DEETS:
Landmark’s Magnolia
3699 McKinney Ave. in the West Village
7:30 and 10 p.m.

Thursday 03.31—Sunday 04.02

chorale

TCC celebrates local heroes, explores legacy of Tyler Clementi

The third concert of the Turtle Creek Chorale’s “Four H” season gets underway Thursday with Heroes, and it may be the most ambitious concert yet. Part one celebrates local organizations whose work in community and the arts have been “heroic” (such as the Resource Center and the Bruce Wood Dance Project); part two is a regional premiere of a specially-commissioned work called “Tyler’s Suite,” created by many acclaimed composers, and exploring the legacy of Tyler Clementi, a gay man who committed suicide.

DEETS:
City Performance Hall
2520 Flora St.
7:30 p.m.
TurtleCreekChorale.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 25, 2016.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Jaster appointed permanent executive director of Turtle Creek Chorale

Bruce Jaster

Bruce Jaster

Bruce Jaster, who took quickly over as interim executive director for the Turtle Creek Chorale following the departure of the previous post-holder in January, has been confirmed as the new full-time permanent executive director, the TCC announced late Friday. The ED is responsible for the management and business side of the organization. Sean Baugh, who was made full-time artistic director earlier this spring after overseeing the most recent season of the TCC since the departure of Trey Jacobs last June, will continue to be in charge of the music, programs and singers.

Jaster received the unanimous support of the board of directors in voting him to the post. He has been on the board himself for 10 years, and spent 15 as a singing member. Since assuming the interim role, he has led the chorale through a dicey period in its history, building up its financial security and “continuing the chorale’s movement toward stability and new growth,” according to a release. Jaster was with Price Waterhouse Coopers before stepping away to take the interim position in January.

“The chorale has been a part of my life since first attending a concert on the early 1980s. To be able to now serve as executive director is a dream realized,” Jaster said.

The chorale is Dallas’ 35-year-old gay men’s chorus, one of the fourth oldest gay men’s singing groups in the U.S. It starts its 36th season Oct. 9.

When I jokingly observed that the timing of the promotion from interim to permanent looked conditioned upon the Supreme Court bestowing marriage equality, the TCC’s director of marketing Tri Truong laughed, adding, “I feel like you can spin it that way.”

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Chorale announces upcoming season of concerts for 2015–16

Sean-Baugh-TCC-by-HHenley

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

Chorale scores turtley awesome season finale

turtlely 80sFor its third concert of the season, newly appointed Turtle Creek Chorale conductor Sean Baugh was taking the stage. In this weekend’s Turtle-ly 80s season finale, he owned the stage.

But Baugh isn’t afraid to share the spotlight. Good thing, because the chorale has so much talent to spotlight.

Steven Fontaine’s “Wind Beneath My Wings” had me in tears. He captured the passion of the song that was sung at so many AIDS funerals.

Steven Patterson’s ballad version of “Open Your Heart” was simply beautiful.

Before I go on about the singing, I need to rave about Soundbytes, the Chorale’s dancers, because last concert I didn’t talk about the wild reception they’re getting. From their hips and heads and cartwheels in “Footloose” to their briefcase flinging “9 to 5″ to their creepy entrance onto the stage during “Thriller,” they’re an integral part of Baugh’s new and improved, maybe best-ever Turtle Creek Chorale.

The 80s Broadway Montage began with a wonderful “La Cage Aux Folles” but the send-up of my most hated musical ever, Cats, (not now, not ever) did that miserable show and its whiny music the justice it certainly deserved. Thank you. If you had just one song to ever drag through the mud … wonderful.

Throughout the show, the joy was loud and proud but the humor was sometimes subtle. The Chamber Chorus singing “Papa Don’t Preach” with the men’s group telling papa they decided to keep the baby was delicious.

I didn’t mention the rest of the soloists. Each one — Brian Dixon, James Jackson, DiMarcus Williams, Eric Ramsey, Brian Scott Carey, Ricky Phoummany, Fathay Smith-Kiawu, Peter Mena, Grant Myers, Steven Patterson, David Barnes, Matthew Harrington, Dan Baillie, Daryl Curry, Bryan Daniel, Doug Fonville, Mike Grant, Grayson Palmer, Benny Ruiz and Michael Sullivan — was powerful, distinctive, warm, wonderful. One didn’t top another. One just didn’t let the audience catch its breath when the next one took us in a different direction. Brilliant.

Oh, (each time I think I’m done here, I realize there’s more) Don Jones, long time signer for the Chorale seemed to have more fun with this show than with just about any other. How could he help it? We all had that much fun tonight.

Three encores following three standing ovations. I love that the Chorale I loved for so long is back.

So here’s where I say there’s still another show on Sunday, June 14 at 2:30 p.m. There are still some tickets left. Go have fun. Oh, and get tickets here.

You can also order season tickets online for next year’s season. I’d tell you about it, but Chorale interim executive director Bruce Jaster told me from the stage to keep my mouth shut. My partner, Brian, has had some interesting new experiences since we met three years ago. He noted this was the first time he’s heard someone specifically tell me to shut up from the stage, though, and said I should say, “Thank you, Bruce.” OK, I’ll shut up, but I’m telling you, you might want to get tickets for next season now.

—  David Taffet

Chorale scores big bucks at Big Thickette, receives big grant

3 contestants

Lisa Condo, Aida Lott and Shebeata Pinata at the Miss Big Thickette pageant and fundraiser.

We like things big in Texas, and the Turtle Creek Chorale has had a big week.

First, their fundraising pageant, Miss Big Thickette, proved a huge success on Sunday night. Usually, the benefit for TCC’s LifeWalk team nets around $4,000 for the night; this year doubled that, with contestants (and generous supporters) ponying up more than $8,000 in donations — a gigantic step toward the LifeWalk team’s goal of $35,000 by September. The winner ended up being Shebeata Pinata, with first runner-up going to Aida Lott and Lisa Condo taking Miss Congeniality.

Then last night came word that Bloomberg Philanthropies in New York has bestrowed an Art Innovation and Management Grant on the chorale. The exact amount of the two-year, unrestricted grant is confidential, though interim executive director Bruce Jaster characterized it as “sizeable.”

Yup, we knew it — Texas is full of “sizeable” queens.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

The Turtle Creek Chorale is back and better than ever

Sean-Baugh-TCC-by-HHenley

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