The Turtle Creek Chorale helps inaugurate the Winspear’s first season with their own brand of Christmas camp
Turtle Creek Chorale’s A VERY SPECIAL HOLIDAY SPECIAL!,
Winspear Opera House, 2403 Flora St. Dec. 11â€“13. $23â€“$68.
When Jonathan Palant, the artistic director of the Turtle Creek Chorale, realized the significant convergence of serendipity this year — all centered around the magic number three — well, it was almost enough to make him a believer in Christmas miracles.
Just as the Winspear Opera House and Wyly Theatre open to create a trifecta of performing arts spaces in the newly revitalized Downtown Arts District (they join the 19-year-old Meyerson Symphony Center), the chorale itself is entering its 30th season of merriment and music. Add to that this year marking Palant’s third season leading the gay men’s chorus, and even the three days of performances of the annual holiday concert … well, it meant one thing: The chorale would have to perform in the Winspear. (And the Wyly, though that comes next year.)
"The chorale has a history of opening concert halls," Palant notes, reminding how the TCC also performed in the first seasons of the Meyerson, the Eisemann in Richardson and Bass Hall in Fort Worth. But the Winspear was something special.
And it means the chorale can really do something it couldn’t before: Put on a full show.
"We’re spoiled because the Meyerson was built with orchestra and men’s choral music in mind,"Palant says. But that also means it was designed for standing (or sitting) and making music. And the chorale, as anyone who has seen a Christmas concert knows, is soooo much more than that.
"We often try to do theatrical performances in a symphony hall," which is not conducive to that. "We now have a fullfledged pit to a lighting design we have never had before, to scrims and a main drape and curtain that allows us a ‘reveal.’"
The Meyerson has no orchestra pit, no curtain, no fly space and limited room in the wings.
But these additions pose their own worries as well.
"I have absolutely no idea what the choral sound will be like on this stage," Palant says, though the Winspear’s famed acoustics do put him at ease. And it gave him and the rest of the chorale the chance to go to town with this concert.
A riff on The Wizard of Oz, it tells of Donald, who takes the Peppermint Road through the Land of Claus on his way to meet the Wizard with a group in tow that includes a socially-awkward reindeer (Dancer, who’s less butch than his behooved team members) and some Muchkins played by members of the Dallas PUMP youth chorus (which Palant also directs).
"Last year’s show was really cute but this year’s is very current, and an incredibly funny show," he says.
And that’s just the first act. The second includes the usual selection of familiar holiday carols. And the size of the venue also allows the chorale to welcome the Metropolitan Winds to provide the music, reuniting the 85-piece wind band for the first time in about 10 years. The band’s founder, acclaimed music director Randol Alan Bass, did most of the arrangements for the concert as well.
"This is the most familiar repertoire since I have been here," Palant says, pointing to the traditions of "Peace, Peace," "Silent Night" and what he believes to be one of the most poignant poinsettia dedication ceremonies to past members yet.
Palant says the momentum of the chorale is the best since he started (they had a sold-out concert of Mozart’s Requiem at the Meyerson in October), but maintaining the high expectations people have of a chorale production can sometimes be daunting. But it’s one he embraces.
"It’s tough: Every time I set out to put together these concerts, I want to make sure the audience feels fulfilled. Our audience expects to laugh, expects to cry, expects to get the warm fuzzies and even to see people they know. I want to give them what they expect. But to be familiar and sublime? That’s especially true during the holiday concert."
But the chorale always has a merry — and often, a Mary — gay ol’ time.
This week in the Arts District
As was the intent of the Performing Arts Center, the Arts District is awash in other activities ths week. The Dallas Black Dance Theatre enters its new home at the Wyly with the show Preeminent Dance, which will showcase the strength of the troupeÊ¼s male dancers, pictured. It runs through Sunday.
Also starting up at the Wyly is the Jazz Roots/Vocalese series, featuring Manhattan Transfer, New York Voices and Jon Hendricks in a concert on Dec. 9. Jazz legend Hendricks will also conduct a private master class on vocals with the Turtle Creek Chorale on Dec. 8.
For additional information, visit DBDT.com or DallasPerformingArts.org.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 4, 2009.