dateline - The Turtle Creek Chorale (TCC) concert on Sept. 28 kicked off the Turtles’ season with gusto. They’ve dubbed their upcoming season “TCC XL” because it’s extra-large, as was the length of this splendid program. The performance entitled To All the Women We’ve Loved Before covered a lot of ground and certainly encompassed the love and passion in the group’s stated mission. Artistic director Sean Mikel Baugh reminded us that the chorale strives to entertain, educate, unite, and inspire. Mission accomplished at the Meyerson.
Both the visual and auditory experience in the beautiful I. M. Pei-designed Meyerson Symphony Center, currently celebrating its 30th year, are stunning. The 250 smartly dressed, chorale members were haloed by the divine Women’s Chorus of Dallas seated above them. Melinda Imthurn, their director for nearly 15 years, conducted some joint pieces. The female voices were quite a pleasing contrast to the robust and sonorous male chorus. The combination of choruses made for a spectacular fusion that created a tasty martini of sound.
TCC began with Carly Simon’s rousing “Let the River Run” accompanied by an orchestra with stirring drums that got one’s heart pounding. Soloists Jeremy Wayne and Jodi Crawford Wright came next with “God Help the Outcasts” (from the animated film The Hunchback of Notre Dame). Their voices blended beautifully in this soothing song.
In keeping with honoring women, throughout the program three women soloists were featured: Jodi Crawford Wright, Denise Lee and Patty Breckenridge. I especially enjoyed Wright’s jazzy “No More Tears/Enough is Enough” and also her sultry version of the standard “Cry Me a River,” which featured some superb piano riffs by Scott Ayers, their associate conductor and pianist. Lee’s big number was “Stop the Show,” from Martin Short’s musical Fame Becomes Me.
The Women’s Chorus presented a rather majestic and peaceful sound in “Tree of Peace” and “O Love.” In “Controlled Burn,” the strings in the small orchestra provided an intense driving dissonance that stirred up the sound and intensified the “burn.”
TCC performed “Harriet Tubman” before intermission, and although it was briefly stopped for an onstage illness, they picked it up well and beautifully finished it off at the beginning of the second half of the program. I enjoyed the percussive vocal, strong harmonies, train sounds, and especially the call-and-response singing.
The standout soloist was Patty Breckenridge, who sang with force and warmth in several beautiful numbers including, Randy Newman’s “I Think It’s Going to Rain Today,” “A Million Dreams” (from The Greatest Showman), and Sinéad O’Connor’s supremely tender “This Is To Mother You” in which Baugh joined her, singing harmony from the piano — such a treat to hear their voices align. Breckenridge’s voice was strong throughout her range — she effortlessly glided through the high notes and embraced the lower range with warmth that made me envision holding an armful of purring kittens. Her balance with the chorus in volume was flawless.
The concept of combining the TCC’s male voices with the Women’s Chorus was brilliant for a concert honoring women. When the male and female choruses combined the effect was uplifting and portrayed how we must not compete with each other but combine to be one harmonious entity. It warmed my heart even though I’d forgotten how cold the temps can get in the Meyerson.
Before the concert concluded with the moving “Groundless Ground,” a special breaking announcement was made that TCC will feature Tony Award-winning actress, singer, songwriter, Idina Menzel to headline their Anniversary Gala Rhapsody in February at the Statler Hotel. So many roles are under Menzel’s belt from Wicked, Rent, and Glee, but her “Let it Go” in Frozen is the recent hit most music lovers know well.
Clarification: An earlier version of this review quoted lyrics from a song called "Harriet Tubman," but the TCC performed a different song with the same title. TheaterJones regrets the error.