Lyrics translated, recorded in Spanish for Easter pageant

This year marked a historic occasion in the 58-year history of the Mesa Easter Pageant, as the production was presented in both English and Spanish to record-breaking crowds.

The pageant, "Jesus the Christ," ran for six nights, the Spanish performance on March 30 and the English performances April 2-6. The production, featuring a cast of 382, was expected to draw more than 110,000 people from throughout the United States and numerous other countries."Our big news this year was that the Spanish performance was complete," said Pageant Chairman Douglas Holladay. He added that attendance nearly doubled that night and missionary referrals sharply increased.

"It has been a two-and-a-half year project to get all the lyrics translated and recorded," he explained. "The comments we heard after the performance was that the enunciation and verbiage were spectacular and members of the audience were visibly, emotionally touched by the spirit and message."

President Juan Perez of the Rio Salado Branch, a Spanish-speaking branch in the Tempe West Stake, said he went with a group of nearly 30 family members to see the Spanish performance. "It was beautiful. I go every year, but I liked this one the best," he said. "Because of the Spanish, we could understand more."

President Perez said many of his branch members and their neighbors attended the pageant. "They all liked it a lot," he said. "I was happy about it because there were a lot of great comments."

Pageant Director Lund Johnson said the idea for a Spanish performance originated about six years ago. He said at that time it was estimated that more than 200,000 people in the area were Spanish-speaking. "We wanted to be able to reach these people also," he said.

For the previous two years the first night of the pageant was performed with the narration in Spanish, while the lyrics remained in English. Brother Lund said the Translation Department of the Church finished the translation for the lyrics last year. The songs were then performed by the Utah State University Chamber Singers in Logan, Utah, under the direction of Dr. Will Kesling and recorded on soundtrack.

Brother Johnson added that much of the accompanying music also had to be re-recorded to provide separate tracks for both languages. This music was performed by the Mormon Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Robert C. Bowden and was recorded in the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City.

Brother Johnson said there was also new music added to the pageant this year that was composed exclusively for the production. Three new songs replaced music used previously for the Triumphal Entry Scene, the Ten Virgins Ballet and the Finale. The soundtrack features three original songs and other music and orchestrations by composer Wanda West Palmer of Mesa, and two Utah composers, Brother Bowden and Russell Wilson, music teacher and director of the Arizona Mormon Choir.

The Easter Pageant week has also grown to include other events. This year a special fireside on March 31 with Steve Young and Elder W. Mack Lawrence, North America Southwest Area president, drew more than 15,000 young men and women to the temple grounds. (See separate article on this page.) Later that same evening an Easter chorale presentation featuring the Arizona Mormon Choir and the Las Vegas Desert Chorale drew several thousands to enjoy a selection of Easter music.

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