Dallas — The Turtle Creek Chorale presented a wonderfully quirky concert on March 23 at the Meyerson Symphony Center, entitled “Topsy Turvy.” The dictionary defines “topsy-turvy” as “upside-down, in or into a reversed condition or order or in or into a state of confusion or disorder.”
This concert, in the form of a circus performance, was anything but in a state of disorder. What is topsy-turvy is the way that Artistic Director Sean Baugh, with the support of Executive Director Bruce Jaster and the virtuosic pianist Scott Ayers, has refreshed TCC traditions by presenting creatively conceptualized presentations instead of the same ’ol-same’ ol.
At its core, this concert/presentation/show was an immensely clever way to present a pops concert. From the circus side, a huge big top hung in the back the stage and a few circular mini-stages were scattered around. Also, there was a ringmaster, played by the endlessly talented B.J. Cleveland.
Into this festive milieu, Baugh inserted a vaudeville-styled show as a skeleton on which to hang it. To this he adds a widely diverse selection of music, with Cleveland doing double duty as a sparkly emcee.
The selections were NOT printed in the program. Instead, where the music list would go, we found this:
“These pages are intentionally blurred. We want you to be delightedly surprised at every turn of this topsy-turvy journey. Sit back and enjoy the ride. And if you really want to know what we’re singing, there will be copies of this magical program as you exit the hall.”
Well, that is all well and good for folks who are familiar with pop hits—which admittedly is most—but for a few of us old fogies who have never paid much attention to popular music as we tried to absorb centuries of what we call “classical” music, most selections only sounded vaguely familiar. What they were and by whom remained mystery on the order of the connection between the Sphinx and its differently dated head.
That didn’t make a difference, with Cleveland as our energetic guide through the musical thicket.
Once the actual program was distributed, we discovered that we heard “Lullabye” and “You May Be Right” by Billy Joel; “Popular” from the musical Wicked; “On a Clear Day (You Can See Forever),” best known as sung by Barbra Streisand; Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” and, natch, “Over the Rainbow.” Only, as the concert kicker “songs you thought you knew” hinted, they were all given choral twists.
Various talented members of the chorus stepped forward to sing solos, including some terrific ensembles. The inclusion of dancers from the Dallas Black Dance Theatre, including Claude Alexander III and Nycole Ray, added to the mix of theater, circus, vaudeville, music and dance.
Baugh keeps enough camp to please anyone, but recasts it in a creative format. What is campier than a circus, with those sequined costumes and buff shirtless men flying through the air and others balancing, in slo-mo, on each other’s shoulders? His serous concerts are, well, serious; filled with major choral literature and newly commissioned works. This time, I saw what he can do with a pops concert.
The future of the TCC is bright indeed, if partially illuminated by a soupçon of shiny spangles.