Those attending a Turtle Creek Chorale holiday concert, Shimmer & Shine, for the very first time may have thought Artistic Director Sean Baugh was channeling his inner Melania with three blood-red trees standing rear center stage. But regular Chorale fans knew those were trees made of poinsettias, a Chorale tradition — one poinsettia for each member of the group who is no longer alive. That number is now 230.
As Baugh explained the annual remembrance, members carried six additional poinsettias on stage to remember the singers lost this year. And one special white poinsettia stood next to Baugh’s conductor platform throughout the concert. That was was to remember former conductor Tim Seelig’s 39-year-old daughter Corianna Kai Seelig-Gustafson, who died suddenly in October. Corianna was 10 years old when Seelig first became conductor of the Chorale. She grew up with hundreds of loving uncles.
Of course, the concert was about the holidays as much as remembrance. But I focus on the memory because going through the printed list of those who are gone, I knew more than 50 of the names in the program — several co-workers, Cedar Springs merchants, and many, many friends and appreciate the memory.
The printed program listed the “instrumentalists,” but 20 musicians accompanying the Chorale created a small orchestra, really, adding a rich sound throughout the concert. A special nod to the wonderful violin soloist Katrina Kratzer.
Some of the traditional Christmas music — Ave Maria, O Holy Night — was performed as beautifully as I’ve ever heard them, but among my favorites were the lighter pieces. Adding to the fun of several songs was the amazing dance ensemble, SoundBytes, the talented members of the Chorale who not only sing but can really move. And just when I wondered what they could possibly do better, they added cheerleading acrobatics, multiple flips and a Rockette-style kick line to the repertoire.
The opening included a simple but magical piece with lighted balls floating away. Soloists including Rashaad Calahan, Lonnie Parks and Jacob Lofland and small ensembles who sang Jingle Bells, O Holy Night amaze me with the talent we have in our community. And I don’t mean to slight the other soloists who each deserve recognition — Roscoe Compton-Kelly, Darryl Curry, Jeremy Wayne, Douglas Fonville, Christopher Wagley, Benny Ruiz, Alex Carr — all with richly professional voices.
First act finale “Recycle the Fruitcake” brought the house down with a frenetically funny conclusion with many members of the Chorale joining the regular dance troupe proving the talent of this group goes way beyond just choral singing.
Another of my favorite Chorale traditions is signer Don Jones taking the conductor’s stand to lead the Chorale in a silent “Silent Night.” Heavenly. Peace.
— David Taffet