In its nearly four decades of performing, the Turtle Creek Chorale has used music to shine light on various contemporary issues. This weekend, Dallas’ famous men’s chorus will perform a set of songs in a concert series called You Are Light, which aims to bring attention to mental health issues and promote suicide prevention. The series takes place across three nights, Friday-Sunday, June 7-9 at Moody Performance Hall.
“We’ve been singing on a variety of issues throughout our history,” says Sean Baugh, artistic director of Turtle Creek Chorale. “We’ve sung about HIV and AIDS, we’ve sung about women’s rights, we’ve sung about all sorts of social justice issues, but we have never sung about mental health or suicide prevention. It’s about time we did so, because we feel like it’s a subject that there’s so much shame built around and nobody talks about it, so we’re going to sing about it.”
Baugh promises that the concert series will be an experience for the audience. The Turtle Creek Chorale will be premiering four original compositions that were commissioned with help from a grant by the city of Dallas.
“These pieces are going to be made available for no charge for other choirs around the world to perform,” Baugh says. “It’s been quite a journey learning the music and preparing emotionally for this concert. We’re hoping that these pieces have a long shelf life.”
In addition to the four brand-new compositions, the Turtle Creek Chorale will perform choral renditions of popular country and pop songs, along with pieces from Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen.
“Think of this as Brené Brown in concert form,” Baugh says. “It’s very uplifting music. There are only a few pieces that I might consider dark, but you have to do those kinds of pieces to speak honestly about the subject.”
With over 45 years of musical training, Baugh believes music has the power to bring people together and strongly believes that a single song can make a positive, lasting impact on someone’s life.
“Just recently, we had a concert that had a pretty serious message about crystal meth abuse in the LGBT community,” Baugh recalls. “There were people there that really took that message to heart and sought help.”
rehearsals for You Are Light, Baugh has noticed that many of the vocalists are feeling more encouraged to share their truths and finding solace in the music, which allows for a special camaraderie within the choral group.
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“This music has opened the door for our members to talk about their struggles,” Baugh says. “We’ve even gone so far as having a licensed therapist at some of our rehearsals.”
During the You Are Light concerts, the mental health arm of the Dallas Resource Center will be collecting cash donations. Tickets are still available for purchase, however, Baugh insists that anyone who is currently facing financial difficulty who feels they could benefit from being in attendance, should contact the Turtle Creek Chorale, who will make arrangements for tickets.
While the music may hit closer to home, Baugh hopes people leave the performances on a positive note.
“I’ve had so many people ask, ‘Is this going to be a depressing concert?’ And in a way, that question irritates me,” Baugh says. “Depressing, I don’t think, is the accurate word. Are we going to sing about really difficult subjects? We are, but I think people are going to leave empowered. It’s not going to be an easy concert to sit through, but I think people are going to leave with a lot more courage.”