Tabernacle Choir: Gift of music for Christmas

What music lover wouldn't want to spend part of "Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir"? During two festive evenings on Temple Square Dec. 16 and 17, more than 10,000 people were recipients of a gift of music as the choir presented concerts in the Tabernacle.

And what a gift it was! From the opening selection of "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" to the closing "Angels We Have Heard on High," the choir delivered just what the audience seemed to want for Christmas.With director Jerold Ottley and associate director Donald Ripplinger taking turns on the conductor's podium, the choir performed such standard Christmas favorites as: "O Little Town of Bethlehem," "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," "Good Christian Men Rejoice," "The First Noel," "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing," "Joy to the World," and "Silent Night."

Three selections featured soloists: David Combs in "I Wonder as I Wander," Stephen Bardsley in "Whence Is that Goodly Fragrance," and Cindy Winegar in "Christmas Prayer."

The women of the Tabernacle Choir sang "Christmas Lullaby," and the men performed "We Three Kings."

Some selections performed during the concerts span centuries and national boundaries. The Catalonian song, "Carol of the Birds," dates back to the Middle Ages, having originated in the Pyrenees Mountains between Spain and France. Two 17th-century carols, "Lippai" and "Upon the Mountain," brought an Austrian flavor to the concert. Of Australian origin were two more up-to-date carols, "Christmas Night" and "Sing Gloria." "O Tannenbaum," a German carol that dates back to the 16th or 17th century, was also in the choir's Christmas repertoire.

Tabernacle organists John Longhurst, Richard L. Elliott and Clay Christiansen accompanied the choir. Brass and percussion accompaniment was provided by "Brassworks," an ensemble of 10 professional musicians hired specially for the concert.

Before the concerts began, Tabernacle Choir Pres. Wendell M. Smoot announced that the programs were being videotaped. In past years, audiences were invited to sing along with the choir on some selections. However, Pres. Smoot announced there would be no sing-along time for the audience since the concerts were being recorded. Disappointment at not being able to "sing with the Tabernacle Choir" registered as a single murmur of "Ohhh, nooo!" rose throughout the vast hall. However, at the end of the concert the audience was appeased when the choir repeated "Angels We Have Heard on High" and Brother Ottley invited all to sing along in the chorus.

In addition to the more than 5,000 people who gathered in the Tabernacle each evening of the concert, several hundred more watched the programs via closed circuit television in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square.

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