Tabernacle Choir in cathedral

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir performing in a Catholic cathedral was a winning combination Sunday evening, May 2. So winning, in fact, that more people were turned away than were admitted inside the Cathedral of the Madeleine, where the choir participated in the 1993 Madeleine Festival of the Arts and Humanities.

The Most Reverend William K. Weigand, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake, told the Church News the choir was invited to perform at the cathedral in an expression of ecumenical friendship and neighborliness. "The symbolism of what we've seen here is very impressive," he said. "The concert thrilled me. Having the Mormon Tabernacle Choir perform here is good for the community and it's good for us."Some 1,000 people crowded into the cathedral. After all the pews were filled, a hundred or more people stood at the back of the nave, the long narrow central hall of the cathedral.

Among special guests at the concert were President Gordon B. Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency, and Elders Marvin J. Ashton, Russell M. Nelson and Dallin H. Oaks of the Council of the Twelve. The wives of these General Authorities also attended.

The Cathedral, built in 1909, recently underwent major renovation. After the work was completed earlier this year, the annual Madeleine festival resumed, featuring a different performing group on Sunday evenings over a period of several weeks. The Tabernacle Choir was the third group to perform in the series. The festival reflects a traditional role of cathedrals as centers of the arts.

In making welcoming remarks before the concert began, Monsignor M. Francis Mannion, rector of the cathedral, said the choir's performance was a highlight of the Madeleine festival. He commented that the cathedral underwent seismic retrofitting during the renovation work. Retrofitting, he said, is usually done in anticipation of earthquakes. However, he said, he knew it was done in anticipation of the Tabernacle Choir performing one day in the cathedral.

Directed by Jerold Ottley, the choir seemed to fulfill Monsignor Mannion's expectations, rendering an all-but-earth-shaking performance.

The first two numbers on the program were enhanced visually as well as aurally as about 150 women singers wearing long fuchsia dresses lined up four across in the main aisle and stood in pairs along the two side aisles. The choir's 130 men were in the cathedral's transept, the front part of the chapel. The placement of the singers and the cathedral's acoustics treated the audience to what might best be described as "surround sound."

Religious music was featured throughout the evening. The first number, "Pueri Hebraeorum," which was sung in Latin, tells of Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem to commence the last week of His mortal ministry. The next number, "Glory to the Lamb," was an English piece that consists of the repetition of two phrases: "Glory to the Lamb," and "The world is overcome by the blood of the Lamb."

JoAnn Ottley, the choir's voice coach and a widely known soprano, sang two solos, one from Joseph Haydn's "The Creation," which tells of the creation of the world, and the other from Franz Schubert's "The Omnipotence," a song of praise that states "heaven and earth testify to his great power; Great is Jehovah, the Lord."

Robert Breault, who traveled with the choir to Israel last December, sang the tenor solo in "Sanctus," from Hector Berlioz's "Requiem," a Catholic burial mass. He also sang the solo part in the well-known and loved Catholic song, "Ave Maria." Mr. Breault is a member of the Catholic Church.

Other numbers on the program were choruses from Sergei Rachmanioff's "All-Night Vigil," regarded as a masterpiece of Russian sacred music; "Now Shout!," an American composition that draws of upon texts from the Psalms; and "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross," a Protestant hymn about the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. The concluding numbers were Ceasr Franck's "O Lord Most Holy," and "Psalm 150."

The choir was accompanied by Tabernacle organists John Longhurst, Clay Christiansen and Richard Elliott. Choir member Phyllis Whitmore was featured on the violin during "Ave Maria."

Some numbers were performed without accompaniment and others were accompanied by piano. But a highlight of the program was the music of the cathedral's new 72-rank pipe organ that fills cabinets in the choir loft above the front entrance to the cathedral. Brother Christiansen had the opportunity to show off the organ during the concert as he performed a solo, "Festal Song," by Robert Hebble.

The concert concluded with the choir singing "God Be With You." The audience, which rose to give the singers a standing ovation, remained standing during the number.

President Hinckley told the Church News: "The performance of the Tabernacle Choir, as part of a series of the Madeleine Festival of the Arts and Humanities, represented an expression of community goodwill and cultural enhancement.

"The music of the choir was stirring and tremendously impressive in the beautifully restored cathedral. The choir's hosts are to be complimented for opening the cathedral for presentations of this kind. It was an event of historic significance, much appreciated by the large audience."

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