Frederica van Stade and Jonathon Palant at Dallas Street Choir rehearsal. Photo: Gus Contreras
The Dallas Street Choir will perform at The Opera Lover’s Broadway, featuring composer Jake Heggie accompanying opera singers Frederica von Stade and Joyce DiDonato, Ailyn Pérez, Rodell Rosel and Anthony Roth Costanzo. 7:30 p.m. Friday at Hamon Hall in the Winspear Opera House.
The stars of Dallas Opera’s “Great Scott” will shift gears and sing hits from Broadway at the Winspear Opera House Friday. And for part of the performance, they’ll be joined by the Dallas Street Choir. Most of the choir’s singers are homeless. Jonathan Palant is the founder and conductor of the Dallas Street Choir. (He also teaches vocal music at Richland College, conducts another choir called CREDO and is the music minister at Kessler Park United Methodist Church.)
The choir rehearses weekly at The Stewpot downtown. Palant doesn’t know who will show up for practice. But as the choir prepares for its show Friday – and with Frederica von Stade showing up to demonstrate techniques – it was a full house at a recent rehearsal.
Here are some excerpts from my conversation with Palant, which aired on KERA FM.
Unlike other choirs you’ve worked with, the goal here isn’t perfect sound:
JPMaya Angelou is known to have said, they won’t remember what you sang. They’ll remember how they felt. And for the Dallas Street Choir, both the audience and the singers, this is about a feeling that we have when we sing as one, as we sing as a community and as we listen in support of a community. Dallas Street Choir, is it a beautiful sound? I suppose, it is to your heart and to your heart, but maybe not to your ears. There are moments of pure genius in that group, there are moments of cacophony. But our members sing with heart, truthfully, like no other choir I’ve ever worked with.
What makes the Dallas Street Choir different:
JPThis is their family, and I try to promote this being their family. This is their safe place, this is where they can come and be themselves regardless of their background. Regardless of where they slept last night, whether it be in a shelter or on the street. Regardless of their mental capacity. This is where they can just sing and they’re a part of something. For so many of these singers who are living on the street, this is the one place that they find sanctuary.
How will the choir work with the opera stars at the performance?
JPWe’re so fortunate that Frederica von Stade has reached out to her friends and invited them to join her on this concert that’s coming up. Jake Heggie the composer of “Great Scott” will be accompanying from the piano. The Dallas Street Choir will sing, these great opera singers will also sing. We’ll conclude doing a few of the great Broadway numbers all together.
When you are homeless, it seems there’d be so many priorities over music.
JPMusic and singing lifts up our spirits. Our singers want to feel loved in that rehearsal room and feel safe. I do everything in my power to never be absent from a rehearsal. If I’m going to be absent, I’d sooner cancel that rehearsal. I’m consistent. These are folks who don’t often have consistency in their life.