Dallas — The Turtle Creek Chorale opened the first of four performances in its always-enjoyable holiday concert on Thursday evening in the Moody Performance Hall. The concert is winkingly titled Snowflakes, which has become the go-to name for Trumpsters to call those who are not, well, Trumpsters.
The stage was decorated with a very large triangular Christmas tree made of more than 200 poinsettias, which we later learned represented the chorus members who have died since TCC’s founding. Five more poinsettias, representing those who passed away in 2017, were added during the evening’s proceedings.
For the opening, the chorale processed down the aisles singing “Masters of the Hall,” resplendent in sharp tuxedos, and it was an effective way to begin.
The show was a combination of some serious and some familiar music of the season, almost all of it in arrangements. There were some original settings, that is unarranged, music. One was a lovely setting of “In Dulci Jubito” by composer Matthew Culloton.
Of course, the music was interspersed with comedy sketches. Most were funny, some pure camp, others were hilarious and only one or two misfired.
An excellent 16-member chamber orchestra and the fabulous pianist/assistant director Scott Ayres accompanied the entire show. The orchestral arrangements were never overwhelming and added a level of professionalism that piano alone, no matter how well-played, can offer.
Guest soprano Jodi Crawford Wright, a regular with the group, delivered a stunning performance of Amanda McBroom’s song, “The Rose,” in an arrangement by Craig Hella Johnson that combined it with “Lo, How a Rose E’re Blooming.” It was the highlight of the evening.
Wright was just as stunning, in the other sense, in a comedic turn as a drunken fishwife of a Mrs. Claus, berating Santa for every imaginable infraction, including a carnal relationship with the reindeer. It was embarassing—but got a lot of laughs.
The other musical guest was the Houston Chamber Ringers, a superb handbell choir under the direction of Stevie Berryman. They played in several big choral selections plus two delightful performances on their own.
Other soloists were drawn from the chorale. There were also appearances by some subgroups such as the chamber choir and some smaller ensembles. The TCC dance company, Soundbytes, was featured in a few of the selections. While they hardly match a trained corps de ballet, they make up in energy for what they may lack in precision. Santa only appeared as inflatable yard art in a funny riff on overdecorated yards.
TCC always has a signer for deaf members of the audience and is the only choral group I know of that does. Don Jones is a joy to watch as he interprets the music for the non-hearing members of the audience. His graceful motions so completely match the music that he adds to the enjoyment of everyone—hearing or not. This was dramatically proven when the chorus “sang” “Silent Night” only using American Sign Language. This is a tradition with TCC but it never loses its impact.
On Friday morning, there was snow in some in parts of Texas, other than Dallas, of course. But those of us in attendance on Thursday at TCC’s Snow Flakes got our snow earlier, twice, in Moody Concert Hall.
TCC, under Music Director Sean Baugh, has made great strides in establishing themselves as a serious choral group, moving away from showbiz. However, a TCC holiday concert is something different and Baugh has kept it lighthearted but still beautifully sung. While this is definitely a gay men’s chorus that serves the LGBTQ community, Snowflakes can be enjoyed by absolutely anyone. While it is naturally Christian in mood it is not laden with religiosity.
Bring your friends of all generations, religions and gender identities. It is also family friendly and the kids will have a blast.
Snowflakes have something for everyone.