�Fabulous Favorites� � Turtle Creek Chorale celebrates 20 years with Dr. Timothy Seelig

BY TERRY MATHEWS | News-Telegram Arts Editor

June 25, 2007 - When Timothy Seelig became artistic director of Dallas’ Turtle Creek Chorale in 1987, the group was small, understaffed and under-funded. In fact, there wasn’t enough money in the budget to give Seelig a salary, so he kept his paying job at Houston Baptist University and commuted to Dallas once a week to conduct the chorale.

In 1988, the chorale had enough money to pay Seelig $20,000 a year, so he moved to Dallas, set up housekeeping and found temporary office work to make ends meet.

Twenty years later, the chorale and its director have arrived.

Dr. Seelig is one of the most respected choral conductors in the world. The chorale has grown from 40 to 350 voices singing as one, and with a budget of over $7 million, Seelig was even able to quit his day job. 

The group has toured extensively, recorded several CDs, and has been the focus of “The Power of Harmony,” a PBS documentary.  They also helped with the organization of The Women’s Chorus of Dallas, One Accord (mixed chorus) and the New Texas Symphony. 

Dr. Seelig has decided to pursue other avenues, and his tenure at Turtle Creek is winding down. The choral honored him with two performances this weekend at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas.

The theme of the shows was “Fabulous Favorites.” The men performed their favorite numbers from the past 20 years. The group also had a few surprises up their sleeves.

They opened with a montage of familiar 60s tunes and moved right into some lovely commissioned pieces. 

These men come from all walks of life, but they have one thing in common: When they open their mouths, something magical happens.

I’ve seen them in concert and have been fortunate to see them  at Grace United Methodist Church, their rehearsal hall for many years. They never fail to entertain, enchant and enthrall. They have near-perfect unison, which is astounding, given that there are usually over 200 voices on the stage.

Their musical selections  uplift and educate. They sing about tolerance and peace and love and understanding. They also sing about compassion and kindness.

While they perform “message music,” they never forget to inject humor into the mix.

Last night, their “Caffeine Polka” showed the audience the lighter side of addiction.

Their take on the “Hallelujah Chorus” is something that has to be seen to truly appreciate. It’s a sight gag from start to finish, and everyone around me was howling during the number.

However, the funniest moments of the program were those led by Vera Carp. 

Carp is the most pious citizen of Tuna, Texas, the third smallest town in Texas, where “the Lion’s Club is too liberal and Patsy Cline never dies.”

Carp is rich, well-coiffed and just a bit of a snob. She’s a member of the Smut Snatchers of the World, whose mission is to clean up the lyrics of church songs and wipe dirt of all kinds off the face of the earth. 

Carp has been a mainstay in the hilarious Tuna, Texas, plays. She is one of the many small town residents created by comedians Jaston Williams and Joe Sears. 

The duo’s first effort, “Greater Tuna” debuted 20 years ago in Austin and has spawned such hilarity as “A Tuna Christmas,” and “Red, White and Tuna.”

Carp addressed Sunday night’s audience about the need to take certain dirty words out of all the dictionaries in Tuna. Then, she performed an adaptation of Broadway’s “Fiddler on the Roof,” Tuna-style. Carp’s rendition of “Baptist on the Roof” brought the house down.

The choral got serious again for the rest of the show, offering some moving and emotional moments from the men and their much-beloved leader. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house, and the crowd was on its feet long before the last note soared through the hall. Brava!

There’s one more chance to hear the choral under Seelig’s direction. They will be performing “A Fond Farewell” concert on Sunday, July 8, at the Lakewood Theatre. Tickets range from $100 to $20. Call 800-746-4412 for more information or log onto their website at www.turtlecreek.org.

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