Oratorio shares message of the Savior's divinity

One often hears the strains of sacred music coming from the Tabernacle on Temple Square. Home to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the historic edifice has also hosted renowned choirs and symphonies from throughout the world.

On a chilly, spring evening April 11, sacred music once again vibrated in the Salt Lake Tabernacle. Only this time the performers were not well-known and world-traveled. They were 18- to 23-year-old students of the Ricks College Music Department performing the fourth in a series of biennial sacred music presentations."Immanuel," an original sacred work by LDS composer K. Newell Dayley, was performed by some 250 members of the Ricks College Symphony Orchestra, Collegiate Singers and Concert Chorale. R. Kevin Call of the Ricks College Music Department conducted, with Kevin Brower and Steve Dresen, also of the Music Department, as chorus directors.

The sacred presentation, which was commissioned by Ricks College, is being performed during a nine-concert tour of Idaho and Utah. The Tabernacle concert was the sixth concert on the tour. One more concert is scheduled April 20 in the Civic Auditorium in Idaho Falls, Idaho. The next in the biennial series will be in 1999, an original work to be composed by Merrill Jenson. The last series was in 1995 - "Song of Nephi," by Robert Cundick. (Please see Church News, March 25, 1995.)

Attending the concert in the Salt Lake Tabernacle were President Gordon B. Hinckley and his wife, Marjorie; Elder David B. Haight, Elder M. Russell Ballard and Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve, along with Ruby Haight and Barbara Ballard. Sitting by Brother Dayley's side during the evening was his wife, Diane. Other members of the composer's family also attended the concert.

Announcer for the program was Ricks College Pres. Steven D. Bennion.

Based on some 72 scriptures from the four Standard Works, "Immanuel" poignantly portrays the mission of the Savior and the role of the Redeemer in the Plan of Salvation. Narration and song combine to testify of Jesus Christ as the Creator, the Son of God, the Messiah, the Lamb of God and the Light of the World.

The presentation begins with the narrator, Rick Davis, a bass soloist, declaring: "I am the Beginning and the End, the Almighty God . . . ," as the symphony accompanies with volume and power. The evening continues in four parts - "His Eternal Purposes," "Adam Fell that Men Might Be," "God Shall Be With Us," and "That Ye Become Holy."

Four soloists, Brother Davis; Kevin Brower, a baritone, portraying Immanuel; Shari Pack, a soprano, portraying the Angel; and David Peck, tenor, the Prophet, performed, frequently combining with the men and women of the chorus.

As the last strains of the music faded in the Tabernacle, the congregation gave an enthusiastic standing ovation. While those attending stood in applause, President Hinckley walked across the aisle to embrace Brother Dayley. Afterward, the composer walked to the stand to embrace the conductors and soloists, and to raise his hands in congratulations to the students.

In a Church News interview, Brother Dayley, a professor of music at BYU who wrote such well-known LDS hymns as "Lord, I Would Follow Thee," and "I Feel My Savior's Love," quietly expressed his gratitude for being part of the Ricks biennial series.

"A sacred presentation convinces the students that music is a means to an end, instead of an end in itself. Using music to celebrate, to worship, to teach is an entirely different thing than the world does with music. The world worships music. We use music to worship."

In addition, Brother Dayley continued: "The students gain confidence that we can do works that are created now. We don't just have to do the works that were created yesterday. We can do things now, that have immediacy."

Pres. Bennion, who will soon become president of Southern Utah University in Cedar City, Utah, explained: "In every one of these productions, I have watched students soar, not just musically, but spiritually as well and have experiences that deepen and enrich their lives beyond anything they've experienced before. The productions are worth it for that."

The Ricks president added that he hopes the biennial series will continue to grow and to be a "blessing to many, many people." He estimated that close to 40,000 people may see and hear the presentation throughout the tour.

One student excited to be part of this is Holly Peterson, a 20-year-old sophomore from Green River, Wyo. An alto in the women's chorus, Holly said: "I would like to be a high school conductor. To be able to work under such incredible people and with such inspiring music really encourages me and helps me want to share the love of music with others."

She emphasized the message of "Immanuel." "The music underlying helps portray that message."

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