Dallas — Any given performance of the Turtle Creek Chorale is difficult to summarize. Yes, there is plenty of serious music making, but there is also a healthy mixture of theater, comedy, and campy bits of fun. New Artistic Director Sean Baugh suggested leaving all expectations behind during a brief talk toward the beginning of the concert last weekend, and this proved to be wise advice as trying to affix a label to what we experienced on Friday night at the City Performance Hall would be unfortunate for the listener. It would also be completely against the message and mission of the TCC and the shows they produce. However, if one had to pin a single element to this performance, perhaps the most important would be an invariably pure joy of music making, which emanated from the stage from beginning to end.
Although the theme for the concert was “Beatles, Britten, and Bond,” it contained a huge variety of music both lighthearted and heart-wrenching. In stark contrast to the stormy weather outside on this evening, the tone inside was set for sunny conditions with a medley of familiar tunes by the Beatles. Rocking out to “A Hard Day’s Night” was a hilarious imitation faux-tribute band. The actual band for the evening was very good: always spot-on the right feel throughout regardless of genre.
A TCC small ensemble, Camerata, performed a warped arrangement of “Can’t Buy Me Love” arranged by Keith Abbs to resemble an English Madrigal. Although seriously performed, it brought out more than a few laughs from the audience.
Immediately following this was a beautiful performance of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ The Vagabond. The mood change was stark as now a well-balanced, rich tone filled the hall. None of the normal objections to the aesthetic mismatch were relevant as this appeared part of the flow within the context of the evening. The theatrical means by which the TCC changed gears worked fantastically. There was no awkward silence between tunes as the production moved quickly from one place to another.
Through additional medleys of tunes from the James Bond movies, Adele, and Elton John, the mixing and matching of aesthetic concepts came off as fresh and never forced; Radiohead’s “Creep” fit in perfectly with Thomas Tallis’ “If Ye Love Me.” It was the music of the same heart.
A brief mention here of TCC accompanist Scott Ayers is necessary. Throughout the concert, his rock-solid presence held together any moments where the ensemble might have been weak. In John Rutter’s For the Beauty of the Earth, his playing was gleaming, never more or less than what was necessary guide the listener’s attention.
This performance was one of those that gained momentum as it went along. Although a lengthy show, it seemed short. As programing decisions go, the obvious planning that went into this concert could easily be measured against the top music organizations in town. But it is the evident effort and commitment of the members of this group that make the music interesting at the important levels of emotional and intellectual reckoning.