`Gift of Music' delights thousands in Tabernacle

Though often overworked, the word "special" may be aptly applied to describe the Tanner Gift of Music, presented in the Tabernacle on Temple Square Friday, Nov. 6, and Saturday, Nov. 7.

The Gift of Music featured the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Utah Symphony in concert with the King's Singers, six widely acclaimed Englishmen who comprise one of the world's most sought-after vocal ensembles.Among those attending Saturday evening's performance were President Gordon B. Hinckley and President James E. Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency, and their wives, Marjorie Hinckley and Ruth Faust. All told, some 10,000 people came to the Tabernacle to receive this year's Tanner Gift of Music, including about 1,000 who attended the rehearsal on Thursday evening, Nov. 5. The concert Saturday evening was broadcast live on KBYU-FM radio.

The performances were free to the public through a financial endowment of the late Obert C. Tanner and his widow, Grace A. Tanner, who turns 92 this month, and the O.C. Tanner Co. This was the eighth time since 1983 that the Tanner Gift of Music has been presented in the Tabernacle.

Craig Jessop, associate conductor of the Tabernacle Choir, directed the choir and symphony in a program subtitled "An Atlantic Bridge." The concert's repertoire included music from the British Isles and North America.

Audience members engaged in a lot of head turning as the concert opened with the world premiere of Rene Clausen's "Canticle of Praise." The choir sang from the front of the hall and the King's Singers gave antiphonal performance from the last row of the balcony at the back of the Tabernacle. The effect not only was spatial but also magical as the 300-plus-member choir was musically offset by the six singing Englishmen.

Other offerings during the first part of the program included the symphony performing Malcom Arnold's "Overture Tam O'Shanter" and Ralph Vaughan Williams' "5 Variants on Dives & Lazarus."

The Tabernacle Choir was featured in performing Edward Elgar's "There Is Sweet Music."

The King's Singers delighted the audience with folk songs from the British Isles, including "Londonderry Air" and "The Oak and the Ash." Humorous comments and employment of dialect in singing "Widdicombe Fair" added to the King's Singers' appeal.

The choir, symphony and guest singers joined forces to round out the program before intermission by singing a sequence of British tunes. As one of the King's Singers waved a small Union Jack, the audience joined in singing the refrain of "Rule, Britannia."

The second part of the program opened with the symphony playing "Punch and Judy Overture," by the late LDS composer Leroy Robertson. The choir and symphony then joined in performing several folk songs and spirituals of America, including "This Land Is Your Land," "Cindy," and "Deep River." The symphony and King's Singers combined to perform "Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair," "The Gift to Be Simple," and "I Bought Me a Cat."

The second premiere of the evening, "An Atlantic Bridge," brought the concert to a close. Specially commissioned for the concert, it featured polka rhythms "Some Folks," the banter of "As I Walked Through London City," the sad mood of "The Dying Soldier," and a spiritual rendering, "I'm Runnin' On." A lone bagpiper played as he made his way down an aisle to the front of the Tabernacle, a soul-touching prelude to the choir singing words penned by Oliver Wendell Holmes, "Thou Gracious God."

"An Atlantic Bridge" was arranged by Mack Wilberg, director of the Brigham Young University Concert Choir.

The signature encore of Tabernacle Choir concerts, "Battle Hymn of the Republic" took on new glimmer as the King's Singers were featured as lead on some verses.

Saturday evening's concert had a tender conclusion as the King's Singers faced the Tabernacle Choir, which sang to them a farewell, "God Be With You."

The choir and guest singers could have formed a mutual admiration society. Several choir members were profuse in their praise of the guests, and spoke of the honor it was to have sung with "the famous lads from England."

The King's Singers gave abundant praise to the choir. "We felt slightly outnumbered, standing there with six individual voices against 320 singers, particularly in the first piece when there was no amplification," said countertenor David Hurley. "It was wonderful to hear the Tabernacle Choir live, in its home setting. It's just fantastic."

Stephen Connolly, who sings bass, said that his group had come to Salt Lake City several times but never managed to get together with the choir before. "This is something that we've been waiting to happen so many years, and it's been a lovely collaboration," he said.

After the Friday evening concert, Philip Lawson, baritone, said, "The Tabernacle Choir is one of the most famous choirs and, from tonight's evidence, one of the best as well. They really know how to use that building. I just take my hat off to them because it's a fantastic organization." He said that it was "great, really stirring" to sing "Battle Hymn" with the Tabernacle Choir. "I can say that I've done that," he said. "The only thing I enjoyed more was singing `Rule, Britania' with this choir."

Nigel Short, a King's Singers countertenor, said, "I enjoyed in particular the Elgar piece, `There Is Sweet Music.' The Tabernacle Choir does that kind of repertoire incredibly well, very passionately. You have to be very disciplined to do that music well."

Gabriel Crouch, baritone, said that he had never heard the Tabernacle Choir live until three days before the concert. "I've seen the choir on TV, heard it on radio and have listened to its recordings for many years," he said. "To actually hear them live was a real, real thrill. To hear them live in their home court was particularly wonderful. The first notes I heard them sing - well, I was absolutely spellbound. It is a magical sound in a magical building."

Paul Phoenix, tenor, said, "Apart from the obvious excellence of the choir and of Craig Jessop . . . the memories that I'll take away with me . . . will be the sheer warmth of the people, the friendliness of the members of the choir, the appreciative audiences and the way the people are so open to the work that we do. It was just a tremendous feeling of pleasure and privilege to be here, to be associated with something as great as was this."


Tickets for yule concert by Tabernacle Choir

The Tabernacle Choir will present its Christmas concert two evenings, Friday, Dec. 18, and Saturday, Dec. 19, in the Tabernacle on Temple Square.

The concert on Dec. 18 will begin at 7:30 p.m. The concert on Dec. 19 will be broadcast live over the Church's satellite network; it will begin at 6 p.m. (MST).

While the concerts are free to the public, tickets will be required for admission. Tickets, limited to two per person, will be available at the following places and times on Nov. 23:

West Gate, Temple Square

10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Kingsbury Hall

University of Utah

Salt Lake City, UT

10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Hale Center Theater

3333 South Decker Lake Drive (2200 West)

West Valley City, UT

10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Utah Festival Opera Co.

59 South 100 West

Logan, UT

10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Ogden Symphony Ballet Association

Eccles Community Art Center

2480 Jefferson Ave.

Ogden, UT

10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Harris Fine Arts Center (Box Office)

C-358 HFAC

Brigham Young University

Provo, UT

10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Bountiful Regional Center

835 North 400 East

North Salt Lake, UT

10 a.m.-5 p.m.

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