Dallas — The Turtle Creek Chorale presented a serious concert on Friday. By this I mean that it was all music, without any of the comedy sketches that are usually a part of the TCC experience.
The inspiring not-to-be-missed concert entitled Anthems featured songs that drove the struggle for civil rights by all marginalized peoples in the country; as well as a world premiere.
With a combination of soloists, small groups of singers, the Soundbytes dancers, a string quintet, piano and the full 200 plus chorale, music director Sean Baugh led a concert that was filled with beautiful singing and also packed an emotional wallop.
There were recorded quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., President John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Mayor Harvey Milk. Tributes were delivered to Harriet Tubman, the anti-Vietnam war effort, and even touched on gun violence. It started out with “We Shall Overcome” and ended with the same music, but, by the end, we all believed that we would.
The Vietnam era was represented by familiar selections such as Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence” and Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind.” The African-American movement was represented by “MLK” by U2, “Harriet Tubman” by Rollo Dilworth and Eloise Greenfield, and the anthem of the movement, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”
The LGBT movement was ever present by implication but never more so than the singing of “Over the Rainbow.” Positive vibes were created by songs such as “This Little Light of Mine” and “You Can’t Stop the Beat” from the musical version of Hairspray.
The world premiere is a four-movement (each movement by a different composer) called Peacekeepers. There are extensive program notes and it is highly recommended that you read them before experiencing the piece. Supertitles, or enough light in hall to follow the words in the program, would have helped. All of the texts, by Charles Anthony Silvestri, are inspired by one of the statements of Jesus in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God” (Mathew 5:9). The musical language runs from contemporary choral with pop and jazz and mostly gospel musical languages.
The first movement, “The Way of Trust” composed by Andrea Ramsey, recommends “…the middle way” that “must be our path today.”
The second movement, with music by the poet, was the most moving and somewhat shocking. The Peacemaker here is the Colt .45. “…The revolver that tamed the Wild West.” The poem laments that the “peacemaker” killed friend and foe alike. Peace did not arrive; only emptiness. The movement ends with the observation that there is only one life left for the Colt to take: that is the poet himself.
The third movement, “Stand Up,” composed by Gerald Gures, deals with social justice. As the refrain “stand up” for justice repeated, more and more in the audience stood to a “… answer that call.”
The final movement, “Blessed are the Peacemakers,” composed by James Eakin III, is an expansion on Mathew 5:9 and brought the cycle to an inspiring closing.
Overall, this is an excellent concert, magnificently performed, and movingly experienced. It may be a “message concert” but it is also great music.