From tears to laughter, the Turtle Creek Chorale delivers holiday delight

Posted on 09 Dec 2016 at 10:01am

chorale-christmasLet’s get this out of the way: Damn you Turtle Creek Chorale.

I didn’t have my reading glasses on me, so I couldn’t read the three-page list of names of former members who have died. But then midway through the second act, Sean Baugh, artistic director of the chorale, steps off the podium to acknowledge the tree of poinsettias on stage and explain that each plant on the tree represents one member, which approximately equals the number of people on stage.

I start crying.

And then he reads the list of members who died this year. Six names added to the already-too-long list. One was a neighbor of mine years ago. I didn’t know he had died.

I’m crying more.

Then, as soloists sing beautifully, telling us not to have tears, the names of too many of my friends scroll across the backdrop.

I’m crying uncontrollably.

And that’s why, for 20 years, I didn’t attend a Turtle Creek Chorale holiday concert.

At the beginning of the concert, Baugh asked who was a chorale first-timer. I was seated among a number of newcomers, so my blubbering during that number was even more apparent.

Thank you, Sean. And, yes, I’m crying again as I’m writing this, with my glasses on, now reading the list of names. The concert is dubbed “A Not So Silent Night.” Baugh must have been thinking about my blubbering when he named it.

OK, rest of the concert?

The guest soloist for this weekend’s concerts is Jennifer Piacenti. She’s a principal soprano with the New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players at City Center in Manhattan. She grew up in Mesquite and her brother’s on the board of the chorale. But Baugh invited her because her singing is outstanding. The local connection was just pure luck.

Through the night, her performance builds. She does a fine rendition of an Irving Berlin standard in the first half. After intermission, she’s a wonderful Mariah Carey in a number that’s stolen by the SoundBytes. But her “O Holy Night” deserved the standing ovation it got.

In that Mariah Carey number, all I can say is move over Rockettes, the SoundBytes are, well, if not quite as perfect, just as sublime. The Christmas show I grew up with was the Radio City Music Hall show that featured the Rockettes, so I know what straight legs kicking high and in precision look like. The SoundBytes nailed it. Well, nailed it as much as we’d want them to.

Noticeable at this performance is the increased size of the Turtle Creek Chorale. After two years of hard work, Baugh has attracted a larger number of singers and he knows how to use the strength of those additional voices — whether it’s in a number where the soloist fails to appear, but the chorus does its part, or in a number accompanied by hand movements, percussion, a powerful soloist and the incredible Timber Creek High School Marching Percussion — again the ovations were well deserved.

Baugh also has a knack for bringing in local talent that compliment the chorale so well  — this time the Lone Star Wind Orchestra, violinist Katrina Kratzer and conductor Francis Vu. The chorale’s own soloists, its chamber orchestra and Camerata are all stellar.

One of my favorite parts of the concert is when Baugh turns the podium over to the chorale’s long-time signer Don Jones. I enjoy watching his signing on the side of the stage throughout the concert, but I love when he conducts the chorale in a silent round of “Silent Night.” Nothing better conveys the song’s message: Peace.

Well deserved also is that even with a fourth concert added for the first time in years, as well as a children’s matinee on Saturday, the concert is virtually sold out. Single tickets are available. Check for tickets here. For the children’s show, just show up and pay what you can at the door.

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