The formal definition of The Turtle Creek Chorale is that it is a gay men’s chorus. True, that is an important part of what they do, but it is so much more than that.
On Saturday night at Dallas City Performance Hall, the group’s 35th anniversary was celebrated, which added a layer of nostalgia over the usual bonding between performers and audience in the sold-out house. The chorus that evening was a happening in itself, as it was greatly augmented by alumni to more than 200 voices. Adding to that, they welcomed the return of the much-loved musical director Tim Seelig to conduct the dedicatory second half of the concert. His entrance was greeted with equal parts of cheers and tears.
(Unfortunately, due to reviewing the second cast of The Dallas Opera’s curtain raiser, La Wally, I was only able to attend the second half of the concert.)
The evening followed an excellent presentation: narrated slides going back to the founding and making a trip through the decades—from the hard times through the triumphs to their current status as one of the best in the country. The music selected for the celebratory concert was also a historical trip with a collection of their favorites, including works specifically written for the TCC and similar choruses throughout the country.
There was a comedy number that was set in a 1950’s “Beauty Parlor” with some outrageous comic drag. Such presentations are an integral part of these concerts, as are small ensembles doing less slapstick comedy. TCC’s concerts are an amalgamation of great music and great antics. Some concerts are completely serious and others, such as the one over the holidays and occasional tributes to pop divas like Madonna, are more like the pops concerts. They definitely mix it up, and that’s part of the charm.
Because of the scrapbook approach to this occasion, much of the music was stirring: starting quietly and building to a thrilling climax on inspirational words. Randall Thompson’s Last Words of David is a signature piece for the chorale and much music ever since has used Thompson’s marvelous piece as a model. While there were a few uptempo numbers, most of the serious music on Saturday followed Thompson’s harmonic and stylistic lead. (This is as good a model as any, by the way.)
Seelig was a clever host, tossing out very funny lines with a deadpan delivery. It is easy to see why he is so popular with chorus and audience alike. It is a tribute to TCC that he left here, after many successful years, to take over the chorus in San Francisco—the most prominent gay men’s chorus and still the flagship of the movement.
TCC was joined by its sister organization, the Dallas Woman’s Chorus, for a grand finale.
On a personal note: Here are are the thoughts that were running through the mind of this out-for-decades reviewer while returning to the car in the chilly night air on Saturday.
TCC is a critical part of the glue that holds our LGBT community together, now and in the past when it was much more difficult. TCC inspired us through the hard times of HIV/AIDS, though the many years when we were, in the words of one of the first activists Frank Kameny, “unindicted and unapprehend criminals.” (That situation was finally resolved in 2003 by the landmark Supreme Court Lawrence V. State of Texas decision.)
TCC is an immense achievement and remains an inspiring ambassador for a community.
We have made great strides—marriage equality is now a reality in three-quarters of the states—and we still have a ways to go, but our future has never been brighter, thanks to organizations like TCC that shine the light.