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‘Nation’s choir’ performs at inaugural events


As the nation watched a new president of the United States begin his four-year term, "the Mormon Tabernacle Choir participated in more inaugural events than anyone-except President Bush and his wife," said the executive director of Bush's inaugural committee.

Stephen M. Studdert, who is also president of the McLean Virginia Stake, said President George Bush had referred to the group as "the nation's choir.The first of the many performances for the Tabernacle Choir was on Jan., 19 at the Inaugural Gala, a live television vareity show telecast by CBS. The choir sang the finale, a song entitled "So Many Voices Sing America's Song," accompanying White Eagle, an operatec tenor fromn the Sioux Indian Tribe. The song was written by LDS composer Robert F. Brunner.

The next morning, on Jan. 20, the choir sang prelude music prior to the swearing-in ceremony in front of the Capitol. But for the actual ceremony, choir members gave up their seats on the stands for other VIPs, and watched the ceremony on TV in a near-by building.

"But we acted like we were there. When people at the ceremony stood up, we did too. When they clapped and cheered, we did too. It was fun," said choir mrmber Douglas Keeler.

The choir then participated in the Inaugural Parade, riding on a 100-foot-long float, which was the last entry in the parade. The choir was one of the few "national"-instead of state-entres, and was chosen to participate in the parade because Bush, accorcding to Studdert, considers it represents Church members worldwide.

The choir sat in rows on the float, which was decorated with a replica of the Tabernacle organ. Because fo the parade's late start, the sun had set by the time the choir arrived at the president's reviewing stand. But it still performed the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" for the president, and many choir members said it was a highlight of their trip.

"He [Bush] sang along with us. He kind of waved, and wiped away a tear," said Dee Hemeyer of Sandy, Utah, a new member who was making his first choir tour.

The Tabernacle Choir was also spotlighted at "An American Tribute to Democracy" on Jan. 21 in Constitution Hall, where it sang nine major selections and set the stage for what was essentially Vice President Dan Quayle's unofficial inaugural address.

On Jan. 22, the choir made its fianl apperance at the National Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving in a special program at Constitution Hall, part of which included the taping of its weekly "Music and the Spoken Word" broadcast for CBS Radio.

Invited to that performance were dignitaries including embassy officials from the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Zimbabwe.

Elder John K. Carmack of the First Quorum of the Seventy and president of the North America Northeast area spoke at a special program at Constitution Hall, which was part of the National Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving observance.

Elder Carmack praised the choir's work during the week, saying several members-including conductor Jerold Ottley-had raspy voices and colds from performing outdoors.

Several members of the Church were involved in central roles during the five days of inaugural celebration. Pres. Studdert, as executive director of the inaugural committee, was in charge of organizing all inaugural events except the actual swearing-in ceremony, which was planned by Congress. Pres. Studdert has also been named assistant to the president to plan his travel and to enhance his image in the media.

Laurie Snow Turner, who normally is the press secretary for Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, was the head of communications for the inaugural committee. That included handling credentials for the 7,000 journalists covering the inauguration, deciding which of them could cover what events, and handling all requests for interviews and information.

Two other LDS groups also provided entertainment for inaugural events. The Jets, a musical group formed by seven of 15 children of the Wolfgramm family from Minneapolis, Minn., were among several "clean-cut" young groups performing at the inauguration's opening ceremonies, where they were personally thanked by Bush. They also performed at The Young American's Ball, which sold out for the first time ever.

Cloggers USA, a group of young LDS dancers, ages 6 to 25, from Spanish Fork, Utah, represented their state in the Inaugural Parade and also danced at the first inaugural event specifically for children, a pageant called, "George to George - 200 years."

Church member Peter Vidmar, a 1984 Olympic gold medalist from California, performed a gymnastics routine during "Looking Forward: An Inaugural Forum," an event for teachers and high school students from throughout the nation. Bush spoke at the forum, which featured success stories that Bush wants to see young people emulate.

Prophet, counselor attend inauguration

Attending the inauguration of the president were President Ezra Taft Benson and his second counselor, President Thomas S. Monson. Bush invited them and other leaders of major churches in America to represent their members at the Jan. 20 swearing-in ceremony.

President Benson and President Monson viewed the cermony from VIP seats on the stand, and also watched the Inaugural Parade shortly afterward.

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