Now at a year under new leadership, Trey Jacobs recharges the Turtle Creek Chorale for its 33rd season
It was just a year ago when Trey Jacobs worked his way unexpectedly to Dallas for the short-term assignment of interim artistic director of the Turtle Creek Chorale. Then three months ago, he was named — just as unexpectedly — the permanent new artistic director. All these transitions have been both easy and difficult, but have challenged Jacobs mostly because they are outside academia (he was previously a college professor). But his teaching prowess might be the one thing that reshapes Dallas’ famed gay men’s chorus into a new chapter.
“I think it was during our performances in Denver that we got energized,” Jacobs says of the chorale’s trip to Colorado for GALA, the Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses convention in July. “The guys came away feeling so proud and after receiving four ovations from 2,500 people. It’s quite affirming.”
Those ovations looked like the group’s newest defining moment — one of several through the years, but this one was perhaps crucial to solidifying the TCC’s new direction … and director.
“There is a level of enthusiasm and excitement buzzing around,” Jacobs says. “I think ‘recharged’ is a very true statement and not only for the membership, but for our patrons as well. These seem to be exciting times.”
That shows in the slate of shows for the chorale’s 33rd season, which offers a healthy combination of theatricality alongside performances with an inspirational quality. There seems to be less gravitas, but that doesn’t mean the chorale is giving less. Instead, the season reads like a TCC refresher. And they continue its practice of performing in all the Arts District stages by holding three shows in the new Dallas City Performance Hall.
“Of course we decided to try out this new space,” Jacobs says.
Although they continue the Dallas tradition of their reverent but fun holiday show with Comfort & Joy on Dec. 5 and 10 at the Meyerson, they will actually have two seasonal concerts with the addition of Naughty & Nice at the new hall.
“Naughty & Nice will involve a portion of the chorale, but it’ll be a takeoff of the old Judy Garland Christmas special with a living room set and guest stars dropping in. And it may be a teeny bit inappropriate,” says Jacobs. (Hey, Dallas expects nothing less from the Turtles.)
Jacobs and company will continue to use the new space for its theatric pieces. In his last Dallas Voice interview, Jacobs discussed adding more stage elements to the TCC. He backs that up with two ambitious shows — one a concert version of Ragtime in collaboration with Uptown Players on Feb. 7 and 8 (see story on Page S7) and an evening of music by the creators of Chicago and Cabaret with the concert Kander & Ebb on April 18-21.
“I envisioned those in a theatrical way and the choices you make are very different than in the Meyerson space,” he explains. “Ragtime will look similar to the concert version of Les Miserables that’s aired on public television. We’ll have the big chorus and Uptown will have their lead actors. The staging with them and the chamber-sized orchestra will be amazing. And I think celebrating Kander and Ebb, this great team of Broadway writers will be exciting with its choreography and that music.”
This past spring, Jacobs directed the Made in America: The Best of American Composers that teamed the chorale with the Lone Star Wind Symphony Orchestra and the U.S. Army Chorus. The honorary chair was former first lady Laura Bush, a polarizing person within the LGBT community largely because of her husband. The group brings another strong female personality to the season for their Inspiration & Hope show June 20 at the Meyerson with Christian singer Sandi Patty headlining. Although the LGBT and the Christian agendas aren’t always on the same page, Patty has been somewhat of a gay icon with her distinct flair.
“I was a huge fan of hers growing up and owned every recording of hers. Other guys, especially who grew up in the Protestant church, know her and they love her just as much,” he says. “And the others were curious. I knew as soon as I came here, I wanted to do this show. But I think where people may think there is some kind of gap, and as cliché as it sounds, music is a universal language that bridges gaps spoken words can’t often do.”
For Jacobs personally, this isn’t just his first anniversary at the chorale, but the first season that’s his very own. Upon his arrival at the TCC, he worked with a season that was already planned by previous director Jonathan Palant. This 33rd season is officially Jacobs’ baby, and despite his excitement about the offerings, he has some nerves as well.
“It is exciting, but with lots of pressure to please the people. One misstep might cause the loss of a fan,” he says. “It’s always in the back of my mind that while this is an amazing chorus, it’s also a business. But I think so far, so good.”
Turtle Creek Chorale fans and subscribers will witness this new 33rd chapter at the season opener Majesty & Glory, the fifth annual Partners in Harmony concert Oct. 21 at the Meyerson. But Jacobs shouldn’t have much to worry about. The men of the chorale are distinctly sons of this city — and Dallas won’t ever let Denver get away with all those ovations.
The Turtle Creek Chorale. Fall auditions take place Aug. 29–30 from 6–10 p.m. in private, 10-minute slots. The season begins at the Meyerson Symphony Center, 2301 Flora St, Oct. 21 at 8 p.m. Subsequent performances at the Meyerson and City Performance Hall are on Dec. 5, 10, 20, 21, 22 and 23, Feb. 7–9, April 18–21 and June 20. For tickets, to audition or for additional formation, visit TurtleCreek.org.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 24, 2012.