‘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

Making ‘Suite’ music together

How the legendary Broadway composer Stephen Schwartz marshaled giants of the music world to create a chorale work about anti-gay bullying

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DEFYING BIGOTRY | Broadway composer Stephen Schwartz helped gather his famous composing friends to create a choral work about anti-gay bullying and suicide.

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Executive Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

Stephen Schwartz remembers quite clearly the first time he heard the name Tyler Clementi.

A college student in New Jersey, Clementi was having sex with another man when his roommate surreptitiously streamed it online on two nights.
The resultant humiliation led Clementi to kill himself by jumping off the George Washington Bridge.

“That was in my neck of the woods,” says Schwartz, who lives in Connecticut but maintains a pied-a-terre in Manhattan. “It was a local story — and a huge one. I don’t know how long national coverage extended, but it was covered extensively here from the arrest to the trial. It was a story with what they call legs.”

Flash forward: Schwartz received a commission from the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus to create a piece Testimony. The man behind the request was the SFGMC’s artistic director: Tim Seelig, the long-time head of Dallas’ Turtle Creek Chorale. That experience led to a personal friendship between the two men.

About a year later, “Tim was in New York and while we were having breakfast, he told me the idea of commissioning a piece about Tyler Clementi to raise awareness of bullying,” recalls Schwartz. A woman named Pamela Stewart had already been interviewing the Clementi family and had the basics of a libretto. “As we spoke, [I realized] an interesting approach would be to ask multiple composers to do a piece [and turn it into] a suite. Tim liked the idea of approaching different composers and since most of them were people I knew, I volunteered to get in touch with them.”

Schwartz is underplaying the impressiveness of the composers being “people he knew.” As one of the titans of Broadway theater — he’s written some of the signature musicals of the last 50 years, including Pippin, Godspell and Wicked, and has won three Oscars for his film work — Schwartz’s Rolodex

is a who’s-who of contemporary music-makers. Among those he contacted, and who ultimately contributed pieces, are John Corigliano and his partner Mark Adamo; Jake Heggie; Ann Hampton Calloway; and Stephen Flaherty. They formed the basis for what became know as Tyler’s Suite.

DrTSeelig

Former Turtle Creek Chorale artistic director Tim Seelig initially approached Schwartz about creating a work for men’s choir.

Schwartz took the lead in coordinating the pieces, serving, as he puts it, more as curator than major-domo. “I got in touch with the various composers in consultation with Tim, and they [each] decided what they would do. [We] then left everyone to their own devices.” But among those missing from the initial lineup of composers? Schwartz himself.

“I think originally there were going to be five or six sections and I was not intending to write any of them,” he says. But as it started to expand, “I became forlorn about not writing one. Now I think it is eight or nine sections.”

The process has been an organic one; as it has progressed, Tyler’s Suite has changed and evolved with each contribution, each performance.

“As you might imagine, in the early days, as things came in, the overall piece took a while to find its own coherence,” Schwartz explains. “We played around with different orders of pieces, individual composers did some changes and editing to their own. I would make some suggestions to individual composers. Some of the contributors were able to see early performances; some were not and were enthusiastic about getting feedback.
Everyone was taking a shot in the dark.”
One of the additions was to include an explanation of who Tyler Clementi was as part of the performance. “One of the things Tim and I realized was that while we knew Tyler’s story, many in the audience didn’t.” Now, though, Schwartz describes it in good shape, and basically in a final, polished state.

“I love the sound of a chorus. I love a lot of voices singing together — maybe my favorite sound in the world is a chorus singing very quietly,” he says.

Screen shot 2016-03-31 at 11.20.30 AM“I’ve [written choral parts] a good deal both for men’s chorus or mixed chorus in a lot of my shows. The way vocals combine, how they will blend with one another, is a whole craft in itself. And writing for men’s chorus is very different than writing for SATB [soprano-alto-tenor-bass]. It’s different working out the blend.”

And this work in particular is one of the more rewarding projects he has worked on.

“I’m very happy to talk to you and very proud of the part I played in bringing to life Tyler’s Suite,” he says. “It’s an important piece that helps people be aware of bullying and its important implications.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 1, 2016.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

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

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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

Chorale announces upcoming season of concerts for 2015–16

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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

Tyler Clementi’s roommate found guilty by N.J. jury of 15 counts, including hate crime

Tyler Clementi

The roommate of a Rutgers University student who committed suicide after a video of him kissing a man in his dorm room surfaced on the Internet was convicted of all 15 counts against him Friday.

Dharun Ravi, 20, was convicted of invasion of privacy and bias intimidation based on sexual orientation after his gay roommate Tyler Clementi committed suicide in 2010 after the video Ravi recorded with his webcam surfaced. Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge, and his suicide made national headlines and began an anti-bullying moment for the LGBT community.

While Ravi was not charged with Clementi’s death and the jury found him not guilty on subparts of the charges, he was found guilty of all 15 counts.

The hate crime of bias intimidation based on sexual orientation carries a sentence of up to 10 years, but the Associated Press reports that he will most likely get a combined 10-year sentence May 21.

Clementi’s father spoke to the younger generation at a press conference after the verdict, according to The Associated Press:

At a news conference, father Joe Clementi advised young people: “You’re going to meet a lot of people in your life. Some of these people you may not like. Just because you don’t like them doesn’t mean you have to work against them.”

A statement from Rutgers says “this sad incident should make us all pause to recognize the importance of civility and mutual respect.”

The Middlesex County prosecutor’s office says it would pursue such a case again even if the victim hadn’t died.

—  Dallasvoice