DALLAS MORNING NEWS
December 22, 2017
It was just a whim, really. But last year, conductor Jonathan Palant heard Carnegie Hall mentioned on the radio and had a thought.
He called the famed venue and asked if ever in its long history it had put on a concert by performers who were homeless. “They put me on with the archivist. He’s been there 40 years. As far as he remembered, no, they never had. Maybe a soloist once, but certainly not a concert. That’s all I needed to hear to say, ‘Well, let’s be the first.'”
It took a year but last June, Palant took 22 members of the Dallas Street Choir to New York City for an unforgettable evening. What followed was a spectacular night of music and human connections. For this uncommon impact Palant is a finalist for the Dallas Morning News 2017 Texan of the Year.
Internationally acclaimed pianist and opera composer Jake Hegge was on stage, too. “It was a miraculous night of beautiful music and personal triumphs,” he said in an interview.
Ann Gregg leads Carnegie Hall’s social impact programs. She said hundreds of homeless New Yorkers attended. Some even performed and were able to interact with each other backstage.
Palant, 43, says he founded the Dallas Street Choir in part to let Dallas see homelessness anew. Yes, some homeless are panhandlers or drug users, he conceded. But they are “also full of passion, love and strength and commitment.”
One choir member told the researchers that the experience has changed her whole self-conception. “I wasn’t worth nothing,” she said. “Until I sat there and was singing and, you know, and could see that I was accepted.”
Palant said he’s not after musical perfection. “I want them to be reminded of the importance of finding joy in what you do, whatever it is,” he said.
Judging by the June concert, they’ve found it, said Carnegie Hall’s Gregg.
“All music tells a story, a story about who we are,” she said. “And in that light the Dallas Street Choir’s performance told a rich story and offered a richly satisfying musical experience.”