Israeli broadcaster is long-time fan of choir

The Tabernacle Choir has fans wherever it goes. Israel is no exception. One of the choir's long-time friends is Avi Hanani, head of music for Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA).

"Whatever you want to know about the choir, just ask me," said Mr. Hanani. He became an instant fan one summer morning in 1960 when he timidly knocked on a door at the Tabernacle and asked if he could listen to the choir rehearse before its weekly broadcast of "Music and the Spoken Word.""I was 16," Mr. Hanani recalled of the occasion. "We were living in the United States while my father was on sabbatical, teaching in Madison, Wis. That summer, my parents and I traveled West, heading for places like the Grand Canyon and other sites we'd heard of. We stopped in Salt Lake City for two days."

During that stay, the young Israeli asked a motel desk clerk what there was to see and do in Salt Lake City on Sundays. The clerk suggested he go hear the Tabernacle Choir. He was interested in music, and had already begun a serious study of it. He had heard of the choir, having listened to some of its records.

He went to Temple Square early, before the Tabernacle's doors were opened to the public. When he introduced himself as an Israeli musician to an usher at one door, the rehearsal practically was brought to a standstill.

"I was introduced to the choir director, and he invited me to join the choir in its rehearsal," he said. "I sat with different sections of the choir, listening to the parts. When it was time for the broadcast to begin, I was given a choice seat in the audience, on the same row as some officials of the Mormon Church."

After the broadcast, choir members visited with him. They asked him questions about Israel, while he asked them about the choir. "It was an exciting experience, a good and healthy experience for me," he said. "In many ways, as a young person interested in music, that was the highlight of the trip. It was one of the highlights of my whole stay in the United States. There was something different about seeing the choir in person. I was exquisitely received by the leaders and the singers. It was an experience to cherish.

"When they started building the Jerusalem Center [BYU Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern StudiesT, I got in touch again with some people of the Mormon religion. I went to the center a couple of times while it was under construction just to see the place. The building is really beautiful."

Mr. Hanani said he was interested particularly in the center's auditorium, and expressed delight in the fact that the center is "culturally involved in the life of the city."

"I am interested in every hall that has good musical acoustics. The Jerusalem Center has very good acoustics and a great organ. Concerts are held there every week. We taped a concert there recently [Dec. 22T that we will broadcast."

Mr. Hanani became directly involved with the choir's concert tour when Iain McKay, director of International Media for Bonneville International, went to the office of Israel Broadcasting Authority last April to check on the possibility of broadcasting some of the concerts.

"Robert Cundick [a former Tabernacle organist and now a director of hosting at the Jerusalem CenterT accompanied me to the meeting," Brother McKay said. "It was a cold canvass - we didn't know anyone at IBA. We met Mr. Hanani. I handed him my business card. He looked at it, saw the Salt Lake City address, and then said, `Let me tell you a story about Salt Lake City.' He then told about going to hear the choir.

"I couldn't believe what was happening," Brother McKay said. "There we were, going to that office just hoping someone there at least had heard of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Not only had the head of the music department for IBA heard of the choir, but he also was a fan.

"When Mr. Hanani finished telling the story about the choir, I said, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir is coming to Israel.' Without missing a beat, Mr. Hanani said,We have to broadcast it on Israel Radio.'

"That," said Brother McKay, "is what we have come to talk about."

Two of the choir's concerts in Jerusalem will be broadcast on radio, and one will be televised. The choir's weekly program, "Music and the Spoken Word," will be carried by radio and television.

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