After the quick departure of Turtle Creek Chorale’s former artistic director, Associate Director Sean Baugh jumped right in and picked up the baton
DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
No other organization is as good at wrapping its arms around an audience, Sean Baugh said, proudly describing the Turtle Creek Chorale. This week, Baugh held the baton to lead the chorale as he welcomed back members to begin TCC’s 35th season.
Baugh is associate artistic director of the chorale and, since the departure of Artistic Director Trey Jacobs earlier this year, its acting director. While much of the structure of the new season was already laid out when he stepped up as acting director, Baugh’s imprint will certainly be obvious.
“Sean built the new season around a basic foundation,” TCC President Kevin Hodges said.
At the season’s opening rehearsal, Hodges expressed his excitement at having Baugh at the helm. He described Baugh’s approach as simple — joy, music that can engulf the audience and touching people’s hearts.
As the members of the chorale gathered in the rehearsal room of the Sammons Center on Oak Lawn Avenue on Aug. 19 for its first rehearsal under the new acting director, Baugh admitted to being a little nervous. But within minutes of warming up, the members of the chorale harmonized, producing that full, rich sound — as strong and wondrous as they’ve been in years.
Baugh heard the sound and felt the support — and seemed at home in his new role.
In college, Baugh majored in trumpet and piano. With his undergraduate degree in music education, he intended to be a high school or college band or orchestra leader. He came to
Dallas to study instrumental conducting at Southern Methodist University. But when he left SMU, he didn’t want to teach anymore and so began a career in communications and marketing.
Baugh began singing with TCC in 2006, longtime conductor Tim Seelig’s last year with the group. He said he joined primarily to sing TCC’s signature piece, “When We No Longer Touch.”
That’s when Baugh realized that his true love was choral music, especially male choral music.
As he was driving home to Tulsa, listening to the chorale’s recording of “When We No Longer Touch,” Baugh said to himself that one day he wanted to be standing in front of the
Turtle Creek Chorale. He said he thought he was done with that part of his life, but he had found something he truly loved.
In his second year with the chorale, Baugh joined the board and eventually served as its president for three years.
In addition to leading the chorale, Baugh is associate director of music and worship at Cathedral of Hope and conducts the choir and orchestra at the church’s Sunday morning services. Baugh said the two positions are very similar with some big differences.
For Cathedral, he and Music Director David Moldenhauer are coming up with something new every week, coordinating with the pastors and speakers who will be participating in the service. For the chorale, he’s looking at music a year in advance and putting together an entire program designed to evoke emotion from the audience.
“We aim for a chill, a teardrop and a laugh,” he said.
Baugh’s first season as acting director for TCC won’t be a season of celebrity talent — although Tim Seelig will be back to direct the chorale for a 35th anniversary performance in February, something the Chorale’s former artistic director said he is thrilled about.
Seelig also said he thinks Baugh is the right person to lead the chorale through this period of transition.
“He’s been part of the organization at multiple levels for the past seven years and knows the men well,” Seelig said, speaking the afternoon before the chorale’s first rehearsal for the season. “They love him and I expect tonight to be a total love fest looking to the future. I’m excited to see what’s ahead.”
Baugh knows to succeed, it’s about more than the music.
“We need to get our core audience back and remind them why they’re coming,” he said. “This season is about the guys.”
Baugh said that while the framework of the season was already in place, he had the opportunity to put his own stamp on it. For the first concert, however, he did more than just a minor tweak. He put a newly commissioned work — The Tyler Suite, about bullying victim Tyler Clementi — on hold. That will probably be performed next season.
Instead, for the October concert, called Brave, chorale members will tell their own stories of coming out, dealing with AIDS, suicide attempts and family acceptance.
At the season’s first rehearsal, Baugh handed out music for the first half of the season. He said at least one part of his conducting style will be more Seelig than Jacobs.
While Jacobs was more likely to stick with a piece once he had chosen it, “Tim threw things away all the time,” Baugh said. “I have no qualms saying, ‘Rip that out. We’re not doing it.’”
Baugh also wants former chorale members to come back and give the group another shot. He said he’s not even asking former members to audition again. Instead, he has invited them to come to a Tuesday night rehearsal and just sing.
“Once a Turtle, always a Turtle,” he said. “They always have a place here.”
Baugh has another goal, too. He reflected on past concerts with the Hamilton Park Baptist Church men’s chorus, the U.S. Army chorus and a recent concert featuring Christian music singer Sandi Patty.
“We changed some hearts,” he said. “We still have the power to do that.”
New singers may audition from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 23. Call the office to schedule a time. Others may stop by a Tuesday night rehearsal, or call to schedule an audition time.
Baugh said he’s looking for “good singers who love good music.” But he also called the chorale “a place for healing.” He said he finds that singers who come to the chorale to heal are the singers who flourish the most.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 22, 2014.