For the first time in its 39 year history, the Turtle Creek Chorale is doing a concert this weekend entirely of rock music.
Before Blinded: Turtles Rock Out began, I scanned the line-up to see which 30 or so songs Artistic Director Sean Baugh chose to represent the depth and breadth of rock and roll. The final song was “Bohemian Rhapsody.” So the concert would build and end with a bang.
Rather than just present the songs, Baugh chose to put them in perspective with narration that framed the history of the genre. For example, the show’s first song, Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti” was also the first song labeled Rock and Roll.
Another thing distinguished this concert from others. Rock lends itself to solo rather than choral singing in most cases so many more songs were sung by soloists or as duets. In addition to many familiar faces, Baugh chose some new voices for these varied pieces.
One of those newcomers was longtime associate conductor and pianist Scott Ayers. For the tribute to Elton John, Ayers came out on stage dressed as Elton John to play the four-song medley. But he sang “Your Song” himself, possibly a first for him with the chorale. He received an ovation for the performance and again at the final curtain.
Christopher Wagley hit a home run with “Let It Be” as well as for “Desperado.” Henry Cook and Glenn Wessler did a superb Everly Brothers’ “Bye Bye Love,” and Eddie Matts and Alvaro Ramalho nailed Prince with a spot-on “Purple Rain.”
But if there was any doubt that the chorale could turn rock into choral music and make it dynamic, the first act finale with “We’re Not Gonna Take It” delivered the group’s well-known powerful sound. That power remained on stage for the part 2 opener, “I’d Do Anything for Love.” You could feel the energy building toward “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Just before “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the energy was building with a forceful version of Green Day’s “21 Guns.”
Then the finale. Soundbytes, the chorale’s dance troop, accompanied the song as the chorale sang a perfect version of Queen’s masterpiece. The song just lends itself to choral singing and the Turtles did one of the finest versions of it that wasn’t Queen itself. But all eyes remained on Soundbytes as they flipped and tumbled. They tossed and caught one dancer in a routine they borrowed from Cirque de Soleil. And they did flurries and flourishes in all the right places. Standing ovation for one of the best finales in Turtle Creek Chorale history. And for the build-up to it.
— David Taffet