HISTORY: SEASONS 16 - 20
16th Season : 1995-1996
Countdown to the Millennium
How do you top a successful European Tour? How about winning an Emmy! The season began with the exciting news that the PBS documentary about the Turtle Creek Chorale, “After Goodbye: An AIDS Story,” had won an Emmy on September 12, 1995.
A culmination of more than a year of filming and the “baring of souls” of so many Chorale members, ended with one of the greatest highlights thus far in the history of the Turtle Creek Chorale. The season was going to prove to be one of pride; and reminders of the discrimination faced by the gay men of the Chorale. The musical season began on September 11, 1995, with “An Evening at the Quilt,” a benefit concert for the NAMES Project.
The Turtle Creek Chorale’s quilt panel was prominently displayed at the Meyerson Symphony Center, while the Chorale performed with several local artists and groups; including the Dallas Classic Guitar Society, Dallas Black Dance Theatre, the Oak Lawn Band, and of course, The Women’s Chorus of Dallas.
In October of 1995, the concert series opened with the Chorale performing works from the last nine centuries in “The Millennium”; including classics from Bach, Haydn and Brahms. This concert also included the premiere of Joseph A. Martin’s “The Awakening”, which was to become one of the Chorale’s favorites to perform. In December of 1995, the Chorale’s Holiday concert, entitled “Holidays of the Future”, featured special guest Chef Stephen Pyles, in a skit that would forever lodge the name of the “Get Gas and Go Diner” in the hearts and minds of Chorale members.
The new year brought the first controversy of the season, as the First Baptist Church of Dallas refused to allow the Chorale to perform in its church for a scheduled concert as part of the American Choral Director’s Association’s southwest division annual meeting. Luckily, the First United Methodist Church held no such homophobia and the concert was on!
In the spring, the Olympic torch carriers came to Dallas. Tim Seelig was chosen to carry a torch as part of the program.
In March of 1996, the Chorale’s concert series continued with “A Gershwin Explosion” and special guest Michael Feinstein. June of 1996 brought the second controversy of the season, when guest star Cynthia Clawson was forced to bow out of performing for “Origins: A Slice of American Pie”, which was the final concert of the season.
It was rumored that Ms. Clawson may have been influenced to bow out after receiving threatening hate mail from those associated with Christian conservatives. However, the show did go on without Ms. Clawson, with tremendous success; it included great American songs by composer Aaron Copeland, and a commissioned piece entitled “Mockingbird Sings” by John Gibson.
July of 1996 brought the Chorale’s third appearance at the Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses festival, in Tampa, Florida. The sixteenth season also included the release of two compact discs: “Let Music Live”; and “The Times of Day”, which was the premiere recording of Richard Strauss’ four movement choral-orchestral cycle of “Die Tageszeiten” (performed with the Ft. Worth Chamber Orchestra).
The seventeenth season began just a little irregularly with a special concert on September 8 to honor our director, Dr. Tim Seelig, at the beginning of his tenth year as Artistic Director. The concert was entitled “Artists United.” The host, Paul J. Williams, presented performers from Booker T. Washington High School, the Dallas Children’s Theater, Rising Moon Theater, the Dallas Classic Guitar Society, Conté de Loyo Flamenco Theatre, the Dallas Wind Symphony, the cast of Forever Plaid from Casa on the Square in Fort Worth, the Fort Worth Men’s Chorus, the New Arts Six, the Meadows School for the Performing Arts, the Oak Lawn Community Band, and, of course, The Women’s Chorus of Dallas and the Turtle Creek Chorale. It was quite a show.
The fall concert entitled On Our Own premiered “Naked Man,” a work commissioned by The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus and performed at the GALA convention the year before in MIami. The composer, Robert Seeley, has provided much beautiful music to choruses for years now.
The holidays brought us Simply Christmas Through the Eyes of a Child. The concert featured guest-artists, the City Ballet, but the hit of the evening was, in fact, the many chorus members in various roles. There was Elmer Fudd (Mark Wright) [Insert Mart Wright-Elmer] hunting that “wascally wabbit,” (Jason Swan) and Adam Keim, the cutest little baby (with a beard) trying to climb into an oversized chair.
March of 1996 saw us traveling to San Diego for an appearance at the national convention of the American Choral Directors Association. In that same both, the TCC reprised The Wizard of Oz, again at McFarlin Auditorium. But in this second production the chorus was divided between a stage chorus and a pit chorus.
June of 1997 was a busy month. First came the final subscription concert Feelin’ Groovy, featuring the music of the 60s Tie-dyed shirts, beads, nehrus, ‘fros, surfboards, and some women from Motown were the order of the day. Three days later the members of the Turtle Creek Chorale traveled to San Antonio to perform as guest artists with the Alamo City Men’s Chorale.
The Award Winning Season
TThe eighteenth season took us to the awards ceremonies we all watch on TV with concerts entitled Emmy, Grammy, Oscars!, and Tony. Because the first concert was called Emmy (subtitled “25 Year of Glorious Music”), it was only appropriate that we reprised “When We No Longer Touch” with the help of The Women’s Chorus of Dallas and a new SATB arrangement by Ann Albritton. However, the first half featured new music by composers we knew well such as Jane Marshall, Marvin Gaspard and Robert Seeley. Unfortunately, no recordings were made of these debut performances.
But mostly new to us were the songs of David Friedman. We featured five of his pieces in the first half and two more in the second half as prelude to “When We No Longer Touch.” We have performed his “Let Me Be The Music” with The Women’s Chorus of Dallas several times since. November of this year also saw the release of the CD “Celebrate” and a performance for the Eastern Orthodoxy’s top spiritual leader, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople. Never let it be said that the Turtle Creek Chorale’s audience is anything but catholic.
The first week of December saw us on the stage of the Meyerson with our guests, The Male Chorus from Hamilton Park Baptist Church under the direction of John Tatum where we presented GRAMMY! A Rockin’ Celebration. The first half was, of course, our typical light-hearted show which featured the “Golden Nutcracker Awards.” Some of the categories were “Most Creative Use of the Human Voice in a Holiday Show, Best Performance by a Non-Singing Act, and The Act We Can’t Live Without. Making appearances were the Sugar Plum Fairies; the 23 piece Sugar Plum Band; Santa and Mrs. Claus; the Monks; a few reindeer; a host of angels led by the perennial monotone angel, John Thomas.
Following the GRAMMY! concert we performed at two community concerts at North Park Center and at the Kroger store in Oak Lawn, and we closed out the season, we thought, with our annual AIDS benefit concert at the Church of the Transfiguration.
However, just as we were winding down from the Grammy concert, we received an invitation to appear with Barry Manilow on KISS FM on the Kidd Kraddick Show. Unfortunately, the time scheduled, about a week before Christmas, was early in the morning on a week day and workday for most of the singers. Nevertheless, about twenty-five members showed up in tuxes, sang some prepared songs which were directed by assistant conductor Craig Gregory, and then stood around the piano and harmonized along with Mr. Manilow, live and on the air! And on New Year’s Eve, we celebrated with Margaret Cho, again at the Meyerson.
At the end of this very busy January the entire Chorale as well as the members of The Women’s Chorus of Dallas and the Hamilton Park Men’s Chorus, almost 400 adults, gave a benefit concert to help the Seagoville schools retain their music program which, because of a lack of funding, they were in danger of losing after joining the Dallas Independent School District. The three adult choruses were joined by 500 students in a concert entitled 1,000 Voices Lifted in Song.
Everyone joined with the singers – the Chamber of Commerce, Baldwin Family Music, Ernst & Young and others – to raise about $12,000 to buy risers, musical equipment and training for the students.
In February, on St. Valentine’s Day, we hosted singer and composer Holly Near at the Medallion Hotel. By the middle of March we were ready for OSCARS! Todd Savell again provided video clips for the giant screen behind the chorus as we sang about the “Good Ship Lollipop”, some musically inept nuns and a girl named Dorothy. The last part of the first half was a tour de force for Todd Savell as he mounted a history of motion pictures accompanied by the TCC singing “In Taberna” and “O Fortuna” from Carmina Burana. The second half of the concert was just as grand in scope as, first, the Chamber Chorus sang a vocalise based on Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings,” arranged by Kris Anthony which was immediately counterpointed by by an arrangement by Danny Ray of “30 Years of Oscar Winning Songs.” Except for one final song, this medley comprised the entire second half of the concert!
May began with two benefit performances – for St. John Camp and for PFLAG. The end of May rolled around, and we were ready with TONY! , but not before we had traveled to Fort Worth to perform at the end of the premier week of then new Perry R. Bass Performance Hall on May 17 in a program entitled Let Music Live. [Insert Bass Hall.pdf] The Chorale and The Women’s Chorus of Dallas were the first Dallas-based groups to perform in the new in its opening weekend. Only hometown artist Van Cliburn preceded us in the Bass Hall with concerts May 8-14. [Bass Hall.jpg.]
On May 31 TONY! opened with the TCC singers dressed, not in white tux shirts, but in dark blue turtle necks. In the first half of the program we saluted many songs which never won a Tony, songs like “Climb Every Mountain” from The Sound of Music, which featured our own Von Trapp family climbing the Alps of the Meyerson Center “Oklahoma” from Oklahoma, “Old Man River” from Showboat sung by our deepest bass, Fred Moore, “They Call the Wind ‘Maria’” from Paint Your Wagon, “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess, “Tonight” from West Side Story, “Try to Remember” from The Fantastiks, and many other such notable tunes. Local singer Connie Coit joined us in both halves of the show, but thrilled the audience in the second half with her version of “Not Getting Married” from Company. In addition to Miss Coit, there were three “special” soloists. Cantor Don Croll, of Temple Shalom, a man with considerable stage experience, performed “If I Were a Rich Man” from Fiddler On The Roof. LaTonia Moore, a University of North Texas student, was introduced to our audience as she performed “My Man’s Gone Now” from Porgy and Bess” and newly-wed Jenn Tusa, who was revealed as the new daughter-in-law of our own accompanist Anne Albritton, amazed us and our audience with her renditions of hits from Grease and from Rent.
We closed out the season on June 7, joined by The Women’s Chorus of Dallas, with a benefit performance in Austin for the University Baptist Church. That concert has been known since then as the Open Door Concert. In July our three “Like No Other Sound on Earth” public service television spots were awarded “Telly” awards, thanks to the hard work of Chorale member Phillip Wier and his associates.
The Story - Words to live by...Music to die for...
The nineteenth season began early for many of us as we hosted the GALA Choruses leadership conference here in Dallas over the Labor Day weekend. The conference opened with a concert by Sweet Honey In The Rock and closed with a concert aptly titled Sweet Music in the Mort. The first half of Sweet Music in the Mort featured an SATB chorus led by Catherine Roma, a TTBB Chorus led by Dennis Coleman, and an SATB chorus led by Gregg Payne. The entire second act was a joint concert by the Turtle Creek Chorale and The Women’s Chorus of Dallas.
In October the TCC released its 18th recording, Lifelong Friend, which immediately drew some snide comments from a local magazine which questioned the choice of the cover art, a black and white photo of two little boys talking to each other. [Insert Lifelong.tiff] In October also we presented our first subscription concert Raisin’ the Rafters! Organist Christopher Berry, accompanied by a brass, percussion, and harp ensemble was our guest for this concert comprised completely of various psalms in arrangements by Jame Mulholland, Mark Hayes, Anne Albritton, Danny Ray, Kris Anthony and many others. Many of these can be heard on the TCC CD, Psalms.
In early November former Miss America, Kate Shindle, performed with the Chorale for the National Minority AIDS Conference, leading to our holiday concert entitled Fireside Chats which opened on November 29 For the first time in many years, our holiday show had no “silly” first half. Rather, as the opening song, “An Old Fashioned Christmas”, performed by ENCORE! implied, virtually all of the evening’s performances were of traditional Christmas and Hannukah songs. Cantor Don Croll of Temple Shalom, Cynthia Dorn Navarrete, and actress Leslie Alexander joined us onstage for this very traditional show.
January brought a year of promise, but it also saw the death of long-time Chorale member and community leader, John Thomas. Those who knew him only through his activities in the Chorale will probably remember him most for his recurring role as the monotone angel.
In March we made two major appearances within days of each other. On A Role!, a program solely of operatic music was performed on March 14 and 17. LaTonia Moore rejoined us accompanied by fellow operatic new-comer Jesus Garcia. Both joined Michael Borschert and Dallas’s self-proclaimed “diva,” Janey Hall and the Chorale to present some of the most famous arias, duets, and choruses from the world of grand opera. However, on March 15 we also performed at Thanksgiving Square for the closing ceremonies of the Thanksgiving World Assembly, a function of the International Year of Thanksgiving.
June brought something very special to the Turtle Creek Chorale. Inspired by a children’s book titled Old Turtle by Douglas Wood, one of the TCC’s favoritie composers, Joseph Martin, wrote a fully orchestrated work setting of the text of that book which was called “Song of Wisdom from ‘Old Turtle’”. It was premiered at a free concert for children on Sunday afternoon, June 13 at the Meyerson. Each child was given a copy of the book, and the lights were kept on so that the children could follow along. Mr. Wood was present on stage as narrator. Anticipating the concert, Mr. Wood was in town for days delivering workshops at elementary schools, making appearances at book stores. One of the local car dealers even donated a VW Beetle painted to look like “old Turtle.” The following week, “Song of Wisdom from ‘Old Turtle’” was presented again, this time to our adult audiences as part of the concert entitled Bustin’ Our Buttons! Mr. Wood also narrated these performances.
What a strange way to open this second-decade year – dressed in pajamas and nightshirts, camped out at the Lakewood Theater, attempting to beat the Guiness Book record for the longest choral performance ever! And we did it, after 20 hours and 32 seconds!
One hundred years or twenty years, as it was for the Turtle Creek Chorale in 1999, is something of a milestone for many organizations. We took this occasion to look to the future by reviewing the past. In the first half of this season’s first concert, A New Dawn, we looked at the some of songs, decade by decade, that were hits in the 20th century, from “Alexander’s Rag Time Band” to “Brother Can You Spare A Dime” to “Rock Around the Clock” to “Because You Loved Me.”
The second half was introduced by Mike Renquist who began to tell the history of the TCC. Mike then introduced one of the two founders of the Turtle Creek Chorale, Rodger Wilson. (Don Essmiller was unable to be present and Phil Gerber is deceased.) As Rodger spoke just seventy singers filed onto the stage, the same number who had sung the TCC’s first song, Randall Thompson’s “Last Words of David.” Rodger, in his turn, introduced the founding conductor of the Turtle Creek Chorale, Harry E. Sher who led these seventy men in “The Last Words of David.”
George “Jake” Jacobs introduced himself next; he served as both president and board chair from 1984 through 1986. He introduced Dr. Richard Fleming, the second director of the TCC, who
conducted the same 70 singers in Gabriel Fauré’s “Cantique de Jean Racine.”
Jacobs remained onstage to introduce the third director, Mr. Michael Crawford, who conducted the same 70 men in “My Eternal King,” which became a perennial favorite of our audiences.
At the conclusion of the piece, 30 men left the stage and Jake rejoined the singers. His place was taken by Michael Sullivan who explained how he had met Dr. Tim Seelig and eventually offered him the position of artistic director. Tim then walked onstage, and as he conducted “Big D,” all the remaining members entered and took their places. And that’s how we began our twentieth season. Each of the remaining former presidents was introduced and related highpoints of their tenures and the Chorale’s history.
Our holiday show, A New Day renewed the tradition of a non-serious first half with a series of twelve skits based on the well-known “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” We saw singing Barbie dolls, Ken dolls and G.I. Joe dolls, and dancing Christmas trees and building blocks and dreidls. We all learned the “Tannebaum Macarena”
The relatively brief second half featured an extended audience sing-a-long in which the audience were invited to sing nine of the thirteen songs. The lyrics were provided to the entire audience to make this possible.
In February we again presented a major star in a concert benefiting the TCC; this year it was the late Nell Carter in a how called Miss Behavin’. She was a hit, of course, but in this year’s concert, she was joined for more than half her numbers by the members of ENCORE! For the finale the entire chorus joined Miss Carter and ENCORE! on the stage of the Meyerson.
In April we presented A New Dimension: Paradise Found!. The first half contained music about Paradise, from the eponymous “In Paradisum” of Fauré and “Heaven” by André J. Thomas ]to “Loving Kindness” by Stephen Paulus (based on the Buddhist sermon “Digha Nikaya”) and “’Tis Music” by Brant Adams. The second half looked at more earthly paradises like Florida (a Jimmy Buffet medley), the Caribbean ((“Jamaican Farewell” as performed by the Panhandlers Steel Band), south of the border (“Gloria E!”, and the south Pacific (“Princess Poo-Poo-Ly”). One of the highlights of this part of the concert was the performance by the Hawaiian troupe Halau Ho’ola Ka Mana O Hawai’I, who presented the chant/song and dance called “Mamala” which is the Hawaian name for Honolulu harbor. The SATB quartet SRO also made an appearance with a manic number called “Fire Up," as did the small TCC group Vox Tortoise with an Enya medley.
The fourth concert of the season was, of course, the major commissioned work, Sing for the Cure, presented on Sunday, June 11 by the men of the Turtle Creek Chorale, the women of The Women’s Chorus of Dallas, and the members of The Pier 1 Imports Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra. Mary Wilson, formerly of “The Supremes,” was the mistress of ceremonies for the evening, the first half of which featured much bantering between Dr. Seelig and Miss Wilson and some of the music from our following week’s concert A New Dream. “Zion’s Walls, the opening choral number, momentarily stopped Miss Wilson in her role as MC.
The second part of the program was Sing for the Cure, narrated in its premier by Dr. Maya Angelou. The Dallas Symphony Orchestra replaced the orchestra of the first half, and where the TCC performed the opening bars of a work by Joseph Martin entitled “Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman.”
Our fifth concert this year, A New Dream, performed a week later, was special enough in that it was accompanied by the Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra throughout, occasioned as it was by a reprise of Sing for the Cure, this time with Cynthia Dorn Navarrete as narrator. For many, this was the first live performance of this milestone work. It was obvious that the work, the collaborative effort of several composers and librettist Pamela Martin, had lost none of its power. But aside from this major work, three much shorter selections in the first half were more than notable. First, there was an arrangement by Terry Dobson called “Stars At Night,” notable for its simple beauty.
It was followed by “I Cannot Count the Stars,” lush with voices, human and orchestral, which we have sung several times. Both were followed by an almost exquisite arrangement of Stephen Sondheims’s “Send in the Clowns,” which we have also sung several times but, arguably, no more beautifully than this performance.