Turtle Creek Chorale: Harmonizing community, joy, and purpose in Dallas

Story by Lawson Martin. Photos provided by Turtle Creek Chorale.

A male chorus in Dallas brings joyous music to the world and inspires its members by fostering a sense of community, purpose, and personal growth.
Artistic Director of Turtle Creek Chorale, Sean Baugh, conducts during a performance.

The Turtle Creek Chorale began in 1980 when 30 men stood on stage at Holy Trinity Catholic Church. The chorus has evolved to include over 250 members today, making it the most-recorded male chorus globally. Members of the Turtle Creek Chorale contribute over 100,000 hours annually to rehearsals, performances, outreach, and workshops.

The chorus, primarily a gay men’s ensemble, welcomes all identifying as male, regardless of sexual orientation. TCC’s mission revolves around entertainment, education, unity, and inspiration.

No one can tell you more about TCC’s impact than Doug Mitchell, a man who has been a member of the Turtle Creek Chorale for 26 years. Doug’s interest in choral music goes back to when he was a kid and sang in his church’s youth choir.

“I think I was the youngest person at my church to join the adult choir that sang on Sunday mornings,” Doug says.

Doug sang in choirs throughout college, too. He first joined a community chorus when he lived in Washington, D.C., called the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, D.C. While in this chorus, he had heard about the Turtle Creek Chorale due to its excellent reputation.

Doug Mitchell, a 25-year Turtle Creek Chorale member, joins Sean Baugh, Artistic Director & Conductor, on stage at Carnegie Hall.

TCC has performed at prestigious events, conventions, and venues, including appearances at Carnegie Hall and collaborations with the Susan G. Komen Foundation. International recognition includes a three-city tour in Spain and sold-out concerts in Barcelona, Berlin, and Prague. The chorus has shared the stage with renowned figures and has received various awards.

So, when Doug moved to Dallas, he knew he had to audition for TCC. The chorale hosts new member auditions generally twice per year. Doug has been a chorale member ever since and its membership has impacted his life significantly.

“It was an influencing factor in my decision to stay in Dallas because it was a really important part of my life, something that I enjoyed doing, and was something that seemed really special,” Doug says. “As a result of staying in Dallas, I met my husband, who I’ve been with for 25 years now.”

Doug expresses his passion for being part of something larger than himself and highlights the choir’s ability to make music that resonates with people.

“I love being a part of something bigger than me and being able to create something with other people,” he says, adding that choral music is a great way to reach people.

According to Doug, the chorus has massively evolved over the years, adapting its messages to be relevant to contemporary issues.

“The chorale has always grown to meet the moment,” he says. “We’ve always had a message that feels relevant to the times that we’re in. More recently, I think that message has been unity, understanding, and bringing folks together.”

An earlier focus of the chorale, before Doug joined, was delivering a message of hope and healing to individuals dealing with HIV and AIDS. Over time, the chorus’s message has grown and evolved beyond that to encompass a broader narrative.

For example, in December, TCC incorporated Celtic traditions into its repertoire in their recent performance called “Sing for Joy: A Celtic Holiday Celebration.” Chloe Agnew, a singer from Dublin, Ireland, who was one of the original members of the internationally acclaimed music group Celtic Woman and Skyland, one of the country’s leading traditional Irish/Celtic bands, joined TCC for this show.

Doug says “Sing for Joy: A Celtic Holiday Celebration” received a tremendous response and sold out both nights.

“The audience response has been overwhelmingly positive,” he says.

Doug believes the joy of making music together with his fellow TCC members and the emotional impact their music has on audiences contribute to a strong sense of purpose.

Rehearsal at Turtle Creek Chorale. Founded in 1980 when 30 men stood on stage at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, the chorus has since evolved to include over 250 members.

The Turtle Creek Chorale also recognizes the potential loneliness many face during the holiday season, particularly for single adult men dealing with mental health challenges. The choir has a strong sense of community and was there to support any members facing the holiday blues.

“We try to be very intentional in supporting one another by creating opportunities that provide a space for folks to show up,” Doug says.

One of those is a tradition that goes way back: having a big buddy in the TCC.

“Anytime anyone joins the chorale, they get paired up with a big buddy, an experienced chorale member who can help them learn the ropes,” Doug says.

That person can serve as a new member’s immediate point of contact and as someone who can help the new member form connections. The chorale also hosts a retreat every year where new members are made to feel like family, according to Doug.

Doug hopes the Turtle Creek Chorale can continue to be a voice for the LGBTQ+ community by challenging stereotypes and fostering a positive community image.

“We are a place within the gay community for folks to come together and find connection, family, purpose, and fun,” Doug says. “But we’re also a great voice for the LBGTQ+ community to speak more about who we are, what we do, and how we show up.”

Anyone interested in joining the Turtle Creek Chorale or attending a future performance can learn more on TCC’s website.