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

Posted on 01 Apr 2016 at 11:21am
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.

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