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Plenty of Passion to Go Around

 

By Todd Camp

Ask any Turtle Creek Chorale member and they’ll tell you that the Chorale is not just an extracurricular activity, it’s a way of life. But for some Turtles, the Chorale is only one of their passions, and their seemingly boundless enthusiasm extends to other activities in which they share a comparatively intense interest.

Take four-year Turtle Creek Chorale veteran Bill Richard, for instance, whose love of theater has taken him in an unexpected and exciting direction. After being taken with acting in high school and college, he left that all behind when he entered the seminary and was ordained as a priest.

“I left ministry in 2005 and had occasionally thought about trying acting again, but never acted upon that (pardon the pun) until last January,” Bill says. Encouraged by positive reviews, he auditioned for the inaugural PlayPride LGBT Festival, a competition of one-act plays by Texas playwrights.

In addition to acting, he decided to turn his experience writing sermons, poetry, and articles about preaching into a short play, Trapped: A Confessional Tale, which he submitted and just recently learned was one of only six plays chosen to compete in the festival.

“Interpreting a character on stage and helping bring a story to life is a different twist on helping people to experience and interpret life,” he says. “And actually writing a play took that even a step further.”

For Kevin Stone, serving as co-chair of the Turtle Cares Committee has been a different kind of calling. Originally formed years ago during the AIDS epidemic that so severely affected many members of Turtle Creek Chorale, Turtle Cares is dedicated to assisting those Turtle members in need, Stone says.

That includes everything from help with transportation to and from doctor’s appointments or even rehearsals to sending flowers to hospitalized members to lending financial assistance when possible.

“When I joined the Chorale in 2010, I wanted to do more than just come to rehearsal and sing. I really felt a pull to do more and devote time to do my part to help the organization grow and prosper,” Kevin says. “Within the Chorale, there are those in need — physically, emotionally, and financially — and I believe it is important to do whatever I can to help them.”

The Turtles Want You!

 

By Todd Camp

We offered some tongue-in-cheek audition suggestions last month, but as tryouts for the Turtle Creek Chorale’s upcoming season approaches, we thought it might be a good time to ask some of the folks involved in the process to share some tips.

TCC Associate Conductor Sean Baugh says the process is simple: Potential members collect their music at the open rehearsal on Aug. 19 and then take the next several days to prepare themselves for auditions on Aug. 23. During that week, Sean says it’s important to “take that time to prepare. We don’t require our members to have to read music but they do have to be able to learn it.”

Sean says it’s key that new members spend some time on the excerpt, so treat it seriously, and learn the notes but also remember that it doesn’t have to be perfect.

“This is not an American Idol-type audition. We’re not going to be judging them,” he says. “We want to help them become members of the Chorale.”

Steven Mitchell, one of the Chorale’s founding members, advises vocalizing in advance so your voice is ready. “You don’t want to go in cold.”

“If you love music, if you can sing, that’s what we want,” he says. “When you join, you’re expected to commit your time and effort: That means good attendance, learning and memorizing your music, and participating and getting involved. That’s part of the deal.”

One of the biggest audition traits the Chorale looks for is the ability to match pitch, Sean says. If you’re unsure about your strength in that area, he suggests hopping in the car with a friend and having them listen to you sing along with a song to see how close you sound. “If you’re way off, you probably have some pitch issues.”

But Sean asks that would-be members remember that, “this is a very, very casual and simple audition process. You don’t have to be a great musician; that’s my job to teach you to be.”

Mark these upcoming dates on your calendar!
Tuesday, Aug. 19: Open rehearsal, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 23: Open auditions, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Both sessions will be held at:
Sammons Center for the Arts
3630 Harry Hines Blvd.
Dallas, TX 75219.

Tunes for All Tastes

 

By Todd Camp

Any music lover will tell you that some songs are so good you can almost taste them, which got us thinking. If you could sidle up to the bar at your local watering hole and order your favorite songs in cocktail form, what ingredients might they include?

Is there Thunderbird in “Thrift Shop”? Maybe a taste of curacao in “Call Me Maybe”? How about tequila in “Toxic”? We asked a couple of Turtle tipplers to serve up some song recipes of their own.

Tri Truong offered his recipe for “On the Radio” by Donna Summer thusly: “Raspberry vodka for the berry sweetness, cranberry and pineapple juices for the sexy color, and topped with champagne for the sparkles,” he said. “It might have to be in a sippy cup so it doesn’t get all over dance floor. I’d pay good money for that drink!”

As for the make-up of “Cold Shoulder” by Adele, Tri says, “Vodka straight up to say ‘I’m not messing around,’ and served in a martini glass, since it’s classy, with a lemon twist for flare.”

For Marcus Overton, whose part-time bartending gig gives him a decided advantage, Laura Branigan’s “Self Control” is all about working all day so you can party and play at night. “Start off with a simple syrup for sweetness with gin for the surprise factor — it can dress up or dress down, depending on who you are,” he says. “Blackberry liqueur to symbolize the darkness of the night with a lime wedge garnish to symbolize the moonlight.”

As for Miley Cyrus’ “I Will Always Remember You,” Marcus says this tune, which prompts reminiscing over past experiences while getting ready for new and bigger things, is pretty straightforward. “Vodka, the original friend request before Facebook; a little bit of peach nectar for sweetness and to represent the playfulness and sunshine of the summer; garnished with raspberry syrup like a darkening sunset on top of a little Sprite,” he says.

Mmmm, make it two.

Listen for the Sounds of Summer

 

By Todd Camp

As the end of summer approaches, we are left reminiscing about pool parties with friends, running an internal slideshow of pictures through our head of getaways to exotic destinations, and, of course, listening (repeatedly) to our favorite tunes that bring back all those feel-good summer memories.

Because certain songs can evoke so many emotions, we decided to see which hits our Turtles felt truly summed up their summer days. Here are their votes for tops songs of the summer.

“I have been listening to a lot of Lana Del Ray this summer, especially the song ‘West Coast,’” says Turtle Creek Chorale’s Tri Truong. “That song just makes you want to hop in a car and cruise around town with the top down. Luckily, the weather has been pretty decent, so that doesn’t seem so far-fetched right now in Texas.”

For Brian Carey, he’s listening to Neon Trees’ “Sleeping with a Friend.” “It makes me want to dance, and I feel like a rock star when I sing it in the shower.”

Songstress Charli XCX is another strong contender, with her catchy tune “Boom Clap” already topping the charts, but that doesn’t impress Turtle Eric Ramsey, who goes all the way back to 1982 for his signature seasonal song. “’Rio’ by Duran Duran,” he says. “There is no intelligent music made anymore! (And now I sound like my parents.)”

Guess Eric’s looking forward to next June’s Turtle-ly ’80s season closer almost as much as are we!

 

Meet the Cast: Brian Carey

 

By Todd Camp

Personal details: Born in Augusta, Ga., this 29-year-old self-described “military brat” lived several places while growing up, including Abilene and Grapevine, where he went to high school. Carey started his own independent marketing consulting company, TikTalk Marketing and offers marketing consulting to small businesses.

“Starting a new business is taking up all of my time, so I don’t have time for many hobbies, but I try to find time for drinks with friends on the weekends,” he says. “And I love a good Sunday pool party.”

Chops: Carey says he’s been singing since elementary school, when he performed his first solo as George Washington singing “Shhh, We’re Writing the Constitution” in his fifth grade production of I Love America! He joined the Classical Children’s Chorus of Abilene in sixth grade, performing at York Minster and other cathedrals in Britain in the summer of 1998. High school introduced him to musical theater where he earned kudos before earning a bachelor’s degree in fine arts in musical theater at the University of Oklahoma. He later received an MBA in marketing and moved away from music before joining the Turtle Creek Chorale last year, where he sang backup for Josh Groban’s Dallas performance.

Most memorable performance: Carey says he knew he belonged with the Chorale when they sang Stephen Schwartz’s “Testimony” in last year’s Broadway concert. “This song grabbed the singers and the audience with a raw, real, and present emotional experience,” he recalls. “I realized the Chorale isn’t just making pretty sounds; we’re healing wounds in our community and in ourselves.”

What draws you to Turtle Creek Chorale: “There is a sense of brotherhood, fellowship, and community within the Chorale that I don’t think I could find anywhere else in Dallas,” he says. “In less than a year, I’ve made lifetime friendships, and there is something spiritual and healing about coming together and creating something beautiful with brothers who share your life experiences.”

Fun fact: Carey says he will unconsciously type words and phrases that he hears or sees throughout the day. “It drives my boyfriend nuts,” he says. “If someone says ‘turquoise’ in a commercial, I’ll realize three minutes later that I’ve probably typed ‘turquoise’ on my lap 50 times. Weird.”

 

Memories: Turtles Take a Look Back

 

By Todd Camp

On Feb. 7, 2015, the Turtle Creek Chorale will celebrate its 35th anniversary with a special concert at the Dallas City Performance Hall. Looking back on more than three decades of making beautiful music for North Texas audiences, as well as fans around the world, we decided to chat with a veteran Turtle to find out what performances stood out for them.

For Jamie Rawson, who just completed his 20th season with the group, two particularly memorable moments came during the group’s 1995 European tour.

“We performed for a sell-out audience at Berlin’s Hochschule der Künste (University of the Arts),” Rawson recalls. “We were surprised to receive a standing ovation since we were told that the German audience was likely to be a bit reserved.”

But that was just the beginning, Rawson says, with audiences enthusiastically chanting and foot-stamping for three more encores.

Later that week in Prague, the Chorale performed at the historic Rudolfinum as a benefit for the Czech Republic’s recently established nascent Gay Rights organization, Rawson says. It was described as the largest openly gay event in the country’s history. The night had many moving moments but one of the biggest came during the final number, We Shall Overcome.

“The entire audience took part, singing the chorus in Czech while joining hands throughout the hall and onto the stage,” Rawson says. “It was a deeply touching moment, quite different from the wild enthusiasm in Berlin, but perhaps more memorable for the deeply felt gratitude that those in attendance expressed to us.”

Rawson recalls many milestones over the years, including performing for Queen Elizabeth II when she visited Dallas in the spring of 1991, saying, “It was tangible proof that the Turtle Creek Chorale was both a recognized performing arts organization and a clear sign that the city of Dallas was changing with the times.”

But Rawson says that the performances that have most connected with audiences are the ones sung with purpose and mission.

“A mission of communicating the incommunicable; the joys and the grief, the excitement and the sorrow, and our optimism and pride,” he says. “When we ourselves connect with these emotions through our music, our audience is touched and connected as well.”

Meet the Cast: Wes

 

By Todd Camp

Personal details: This 28-year-old Houston native currently works as a campus consultant for OrgSync Inc., a Dallas-based software company that caters to student affairs functions at institutions of higher education. His passions include a love of music, singing, watching sports, hanging with friends, and going to movies. In addition to lending his baritone voice to Turtle Creek Chorale, he’s also a member of the dance-centric Soundbytes group.

Chops: Wes says he’s been singing in choirs since he was three years old and started in church. He’s traveled the world on choir tours with the Houston Children’s Chorus and has made a number of mission trips. His singing has opened the doors to major opportunities, including the chance to perform in musicals across the country, even sharing the stage with the likes of Josh Groban and Celine Dion.

Wes with Celine Dion

Most memorable performance: Having only been with Turtle Creek Chorale for just under a year, his choices are somewhat limited, but Wes still has no problem picking a favorite. “I loved our Christmas shows,” he says, “These are always well attended and a great way to spend the holidays!”

Favorite song performed: “[Morten Lauridsen’s] ‘Sure on this Shining Night,’” Wes says. “When we sang this song for both the AIDS benefit show as well as our Christmas shows, this song always struck a chord with me and I really connected with the words and notes.”

What draws you to Turtle Creek Chorale: “I love making music. Getting to do so with such a fun group of friends and ‘family’ makes all of the rehearsal time worthwhile. Also, I feel like I really learn something about music and/or dancing when I leave rehearsals.”

Fun fact: Wes is a huge Baylor sports fan and adds, “Go Bears!”

That’s a Wrap!

 

With the close of 2013–2014 season, we decided to take a look back at some of the highlights from the year with Turtle Creek Chorale veterans as well as newcomers. Some favorites quickly emerged.

“The holiday concerts are my absolute favorite memories for every season,” says new Turtle Creek Chorale Membership Vice President Elect Tri Truong. “We make [audiences] laugh, cry, and feel every other emotion in a span of two hours — it’s pretty amazing.”

That audience connection is what keeps Bob McCranie, a Turtle Creek Chorale member for three and a half years, coming back year after year. “We sang for 20 days straight,” he says. “You kind of do it because you love it.” Recalling a performance for the kids at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, McCranie says that watching their faces light up is one of those moments that make you think, “This is why we’re singing.”

For newcomer David Barnes, who joined the Chorale this January, the recent collaboration with Uptown Players on Sweeney Todd was unforgettable, especially since he got to enjoy the show both as a performer and an audience member.

“I think it really melded the two organizations and heightened the talents of each,” he says.

McCranie also fondly recalls last year’s collaboration with Grammy-winning Christian singer Sandi Patty in June’s “Inspiration & Hope” show. “She became one of the Chorale,” he says. “She was so complimentary and giving, sticking around to take pictures with everyone who wanted one. She made that concert so enjoyable.”

Another big favorite was last month’s divalicious season closer, a show everyone seems to have a story about, both onstage and off.

Truong, who was one of the principal dancers in the show, recalls that every dance rehearsal was “like a sweaty Zumba class at the gym. It’s also hard to get 150-plus guys to learn dance moves for numbers like ‘Son of a Preacher Man and Rehab,’ but Jeremy Dumont did a great job and those two numbers were fantastic!”

Watching the solo numbers, many of which aren’t even seen by the full group until rehearsals, was another highlight. For Barnes, performing Patsy Cline’s “Crazy,” his first TCC solo, was “an awesome honor.” While McCranie remembers seeing Ethan Laurence and Bryan Carey perform their soulful rendition of Whitney Houston’s “I Want to Dance With Somebody” for the first time saying, “We all just had our jaws on the stage. It was stunning.”

Money Matters

 

Anyone who runs an arts-based nonprofit can tell you that the expenses are astronomical, even if they aren’t always immediately recognizable to potential donors.

Each Turtle Creek Chorale performance is an expensive endeavor with sizable production expenses, including venue rental, musicians, licensing fees and music purchase, commission costs for new arrangements and works, production staff, costumes, and the list goes on.

It adds up, in other words, which is why contributions are crucial to ensure audiences continue to receive exceptional musical experiences. The biggest way audiences contribute, and Turtle Creek Chorale’s key source of funding, comes from ticket sales, says Turtle Creek Chorale Development/Marketing Director Caroline French. “But donations and grants are critical to ensure that Turtle Creek Chorale has the resources to operate as a sustainable arts organization with a dedication to artistic quality.”

And with Turtle Creek Chorale, you get a lot of enriching bang for your buck. “Using choral music as our instrument, TCC enhances the cultural lives of our members and audiences by promoting harmony and spreading goodwill through the gift of song,” French says. “As advocates of unity and education across all communities and cultures, the Chorale continues to accomplish, achieve, and aspire to new heights, building bridges and breaking barriers within the Dallas community and beyond.”

But their contributions extend well beyond nourishing the soul. During its 34-year history, Turtle Creek Chorale has provided numerous benefit performances, worked in a number of community service projects, and acted as ambassadors for the city to groups visiting from across the globe. They also provide complimentary admission to shows for high school choral groups, seniors, and people living with HIV/AIDS. There are also numerous educational opportunities for aspiring young singers and general audiences alike, French says.

You can always donate to Turtle Creek Chorale through traditional methods like regular mail, online at TurtleCreek.org, or even by attending a concert, but there are a couple of ways you might not know about. By shopping at area Tom Thumb stores, you can designate that 10 percent of your purchase be donated when you use the Turtle Creek Chorale Good Neighbor Number #845. Also, many companies will donate cash in exchange for your volunteer hours and some are even willing to match any donations you make personally to a nonprofit. Check with your employer to find out more.

So You Think You Can Sing (and Dance)?

 

By Todd Camp

Think you could be a Turtle? Starting next month, you can put your mouth where your … er, mouth is when Turtle Creek Chorale opens auditions for new members. Until then, check out these tips on what it takes to be a successful Chorale crooner:

1. Lighten up. A sense of humor is not only a key trait for Chorale members; it’s a key trait for humans. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Seriously.

2. Slice that ham extra thick. Performing in front of hundreds of people can be intimidating, so don’t be afraid to nurse your inner ham. It might not be necessary for all TCC shows, but you’d be surprised how much hamming it up can come in handy.

3. Gimme a beat. You don’t have to have the moves like Jagger, but being able to groove to the music, even a little bit, will work to your advantage. Leave that other left foot at home.

4. Make this stuff look good. A sense of style will make ’em smile. You’ll probably be workin’ a tux most of the time on stage, but still, it never hurts to always show up dressed for success.

5. Sing out, Louise. Vocal talent is no small factor here — remember, you are singing for an internationally recognized choir. But you don’t have to have been a choral prodigy at age five to make the cut. So …

6. Practice. Practice. Practice. Sing in the shower. Bust out some Duran Duran at a local karaoke night (which could definitely help you out next season …). Do whatever it takes to get your voice used to making beautiful music.

7. Don’t just love it, live it. What you might lack in solo virtuosity, you can definitely make up for in passion. A genuine love of music is a must for any Turtle worth his salt.

8. Broaden your iPod’s horizons. Fergie is fierce, but there’s a whole wonderful world of music out there and the Chorale is going to be exposing you to a lot of it. Seek out new sounds and you might find something beyond “Bootylicious.”

9. Take care of your instrument. Late-night drinking binges are fun — if you remember them. But do remember this: They are tough on your voice. Keep your chords lubricated, not pickled.

10. Have fun. Why is something so simple, so hard to remember sometimes? You have to enjoy what you’re doing for others to enjoy what you’re doing. The more fun you have, the more fun the audience will share in.

Open rehearsal will be held Aug. 19 from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Sammons Center for the Arts. New member auditions will be scheduled on Aug. 23..

For more information email info@turtlecreek.org.