Dallas — After my first encounter with the Turtle Creek Chorale last Christmas, I decided that my approach toward understanding their artistry would consider less their technical prowess and more their authenticity and commitment to entertainment. This isn’t because they lack technical prowess; in fact, this group of roughly 200 male voices, under the artistic direction of Sean Baugh, knows a lot about blending and the importance of harmonic balance.
No, it’s more so because of their stated mission: to bring joy to audiences through entertainment, education, unification, and inspiration, and Blinded: Turtles Rock Out! is a solid testament to this mission. As a part of their Mainstage series, this concert opened Friday night to a nearly full house at the Moody Performance Hall.
The program is a collection of rock songs spanning from the origins of the genre to present-day hits. It moves in a rather chronological order, punctuated by narration that provides historical context to the show’s overarching narrative. Opening with the fitting boom-boom-clap of Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” the concert is introduced as a clever expression of the gay experience—how the prevailing themes of rock-and-roll blend so meaningfully into the history and evolution of gay identity in America. The varying colors of rockabilly, glam rock, heavy metal, and alternative rock lend an insightful understanding of the marginalized, the rebellious, and the non-conforming fringes of society.
The troupe moves from Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti,” through medleys of the Beatles and Elton John, to Radiohead and Green Day, with tons of well-known classics in between. True to form for this group, many of the numbers feature flamboyant showmanship and flare with members performing in comedic drag and bodacious wigs. Their version of “Proud Mary” is particularly fun, with Tina Turner impersonators turning the mirth up to 11.
It is a program that is rather heavy on solos. For the most part, these solos were decent. Standout performances came from Michael Duane and Joshua Urbano, whose duet arrangement of Radiohead’s “Creep” was heartfelt and moving. The group’s associate conductor and pianist Scott Ayers also steals the show. Without giving away too much—his take on Elton John proves captivating and thoroughly effective.
I would have, however, preferred to hear a bit more from the ensemble as a whole. While the solo numbers definitely add energy and momentum to the program’s progression, some of the most tender moments of the show take place when the whole choir participates, and there just aren’t enough of them. On movements like “This War Is Over” and “21 Guns,” the fullness of the choir’s sound provides body and weight to the message, which is appropriately colored and toned by Baugh’s conducting.
All in all, it is a fun show with memorable moments. Aided by their resident dance troupe, the Soundbytes, and a well-organized and thorough band in the pit, the Turtle Creek Chorale puts on a display that solicits the audience to truly enjoy itself. And that, at the end of the day, is what it’s all about. This group of musicians approaches the artform with a respectable awareness of musicality, but foremost, a verifiable commitment to its narrative; it’s about the durability of the program’s function as it relates to the choir’s ardent fanbase.
In this respect, I would say mission accomplished; and with a rousing, colorful finale on Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” patrons definitely are left feeling entertained, educated, unified, and inspired.