Out Here

Turtle Creek Chorale
The Best of Turtle Creek Chorale
(TCC Recordings)

Over the years, I have been asked a few times to attend a Turtle Creek Chorale concert, and whenever I have declined, there has always been surprise. It's like -- "Hey, you're gay, they're gay. It's a natural marriage of entertainment and audience. What's the deal?" For me, there's a shotgun of lavender peer pressure aimed over these nuptials, since I have long been of the opinion that camp is dead (although occasionally revived to fantastic effect, e.g., Paul Verhoeven's completely unself-conscious travesty Showgirls), drag is boring, and show tunes (except Sondheim) are written to suck out your soul as surely as a Cajun hoovers a mudbug. The Turtle Creek Chorale, celebrating its 20th anniversary in February 2000, has relied on various combinations of all three, both on stage and in the studio. You may think, after this confession, that I'm not the most appropriate person to review The Best of Turtle Creek Chorale, a compilation of recordings from their 19 releases. But hey, I'm gay, they're gay -- surely we'll find something in common on the first date.

Actually, relating has been tough, but after spinning the two-disc Best Of a couple of times, I must say the Chorale is not only silvery, somber, and utterly smooth in its delivery of everything from Negro spirituals to "The Star Spangled Banner," but also a subversive, if stealth, pop institution. Over the years, TCC has taken flak from some lefty gay corners -- not a lot, mind you; this is Dallas -- for refusing to make explicit statements of partisan protest and for giving a command performance before President and Mrs. Bush in 1991, just as the culture wars were coming to a boil. But these days, Robert DeNiro stars in drag queen comedies (the recent Flawless), and TV sitcoms runneth over with handsome if sexless gay professionals (Will and Grace and Oh Grow Up, to name but a few). There's an Invasion of the Body Snatchers quality to the new queer revolution that has homophobes nationwide casting a nervous eye on their drinking buddies. What do you think makes the religious right's blood run colder -- a leather man waving a dildo or 225 homosexuals singing "America the Beautiful"? Anarchy is all about context.

And the Turtle Creek Chorale fits beautifully -- and, in a hat tip to their longevity, even presciently -- into the slow, bumpy, but inevitable domestication of gay and lesbian life. Got a homophobe on your list who loves sentimental choir/classical music? Make a Christmas gift to them of The Best of The Turtle Creek Chorale. The Turtle Creek Chorale's professionalism will make them fans. Better yet, the fact that they love the collective voices of men who kiss other men will, whether they admit it or not, bug the shit out of them.

Jimmy Fowler


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