'Savoring moments' in Jerusalem

The Tabernacle Choir, on a 12-day tour to the Holy Land, arrived safely here Dec. 27, and, savoring every moment, stopped to pose for photos at the BYU Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies with the old city in the background.

Despite the chilly, humid weather and fatigue from their lengthy trip, choir members were excited to be in the Holy Land and relished the experience.Others were equally excited to have the choir arrive. "This is the biggest choir ever to come to Israel, and it is one of the most famous," said Gideon Taz, managing director of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra. "We feel fortunate; we have waited years to have them here."

Choir members attended sacrament meeting in the evening of Dec. 27, and listened to an address by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Seventy, president of the Europe North Area and one of the men behind the construction of the BYU Jerusalem Center when he was president of BYU.

The next day, on Dec. 28, the singers began rehearsals, first with just piano accompaniment and later with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra. The choir began collecting accolades, even at the rehearsal, from managing director Taz.

"I have known of the Tabernacle Choir for years," he said. "When I was growing up, I listened to records by the choir. I've always thought that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was a professional choir. I was surprised to find out they are amateur, but they are amateurs only because they are not paid; they are professional in the way they performed during rehearsal with orchestra and choir. We are thrilled, we are honored, we are happy to have the choir here."

He noted that tickets were sold out for concerts in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

The choir is taking part in the orchestra's liturgica series, musical performances of renowned musical groups in primarily Christian and Jewish music based on the Old and New Testaments. The series is titled "Classical Winter in Jerusalem," and last year hosted the London Symphony Orchestra, and the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra in 1990.

The choir was to perform Hector Berlioz' "Requiem" in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

The choir also videotaped its Jan. 3 `Music and the Spoken Word" from Jerusalem. Instead of coming from "the Crossroads of the West" as the program usually does each Sunday, the program will come from Mount Scopus, near the Mount of Olives, overlooking the ancient city of Jerusalem.

The program was videotaped in the auditorium of the BYU Jerusalem Center on Dec. 31, and transmitted to the United States to be televised on CBS at the regularly scheduled time Jan. 3.

"Normally, when the choir is out of the country on a tour on Sunday, we try to do a broadcast from that country," said the program's producer Edward G. Payne of Bonneville Communications. "If the time slot permits, we do the program live, via satellite. Sometimes, because of the differences in time zones, there may be a few hours delay from the time the choir performs and the time the viewer sees or hears the broadcast. In this case, we taped the program three days before its air time."

The broadcast from Jerusalem was literally months in the making. "When the choir is doing a broadcast from another country, we make contacts with broadcasters there months in advance. The initial contacts are usually made by Iain McKay (Bonneville's director of International Media). He finds out if a station in that country is interested in carrying the broadcast, and makes an assessment to determine if it can handle such a broadcast in terms of equipment and staff. Sometimes we have to bring in certain equipment. On this broadcast, for example, we had to bring in a teleprompter because the station here didn't have one."

One of the major challenges the producer faces in doing a broadcast outside the choir's home base in the Tabernacle is the fact that hardly any stations do live programming anymore, at least not of the high caliber as "Music and the Spoken Word. Brother Payne and his staff begin months in advance to prepare local television staffs and crews to do a live broadcast with the choir.

"We inundate them with scripts, details about precisely what will be happening," he said. "We get them as familiar with the broadcast as we can. But a lot of local television crews are nervous working on a live broadcast because they don't have much experience in doing a program live."

Although "Music and the Spoken Word" in Israel was recorded, it was produced as if it were live programming. "The choir is used to performing this way," Brother Payne explained. "A lot of broadcasters like to record the programs so if mistakes are made they can do it again. We don't have the luxury of taping a broadcast several times until we get a good take because we work on such a tight schedule.

"When we're on tour, we try to produce the show in a style that's not radically different from what we do every week, yet we try to make it different enough so that the people watching will know we're coming to them from another country."

This is one of the few broadcasts in which the choir has performed virtually to an empty house, and that's because there was no room in the center for spectators since choir members occupied the Jerusalem Center's auditorium seats. It was a broadcast with a different view not only for television audiences but also for the singers themselves. They faced a huge bank of windows that reveal a spectacular view of Jerusalem.

"This is a beautiful auditorium," Brother Payne said. "The pipe organ was built especially for the BYU Jerusalem Center. One of the highlights of this broadcast is that Robert Cundick [who retired from the Tabernacle Choir in 1991 and is now serving in the BYU Jerusalem CenterT played one of his own compositions as an organ solo."

930102 02MUSI SCOTTY;01/02,11:22 MusicSpokenWordheadline headline byline

cap ~

Input file was 0073 Output file was /asst/csi/0102/pass2/0088

Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed