Hearkening back to the days when the renowned Utah Symphony performed its concerts in the Salt Lake Tabernacle, the orchestra presented Gustav Mahler's "Symphony No. 8 in E-flat Major" in the Tabernacle Nov. 15 and 16. This time, though, the symphony was joined by the Tabernacle Choir, Utah Symphony Chorus, a children's choir comprised of singers from four choirs in Utah and eight soloists.
In fact, vocalists and musicians — about 850 — were so numerous that some of them had to occupy the front-most gallery where audience or congregation members sit on other occasions.
With such musical quantity as well as quality packed into a single hall, it was hardly surprising that the effect would be one of breathtaking volume and dimension.
But it was indeed overwhelming, as the ensemble performed under the baton of Keith Lockhart, the renowned conductor who occupies a dual role in two far-flung locales, one as music director for the Utah Symphony and Opera, and the other as conductor of the well-known Boston Pops Orchestra.
The occasion was the 10th presentation in the O.C. Tanner Gift of Music series. Inaugurated in 1976 during America's Bicentennial celebration, the concerts are presented free to the public through an endowment from the late Obert C. Tanner, his wife Grace A. Tanner and the O.C. Tanner Co.
Mahler's work, composed in 1906-07 and first performed in Munich, Germany, on Sept. 12, 1910, was described in program notes by Roger Miller as "the joining of two . . . disparate works (a 9th Century Latin penitential hymn to the Holy Spirit and the final scene from Goethe's Faust) into a single aesthetic whole [that] would seem on the face of it illogical, if not aesthetically impossible." But in fact, he wrote, the composer made it work.
"Mahler's idea was to create a work in which the agency of the Creator Spirit would determine the course of events, both in the development of musical themes and in the concept of Redemptive Love as seen in the unfolding of Goethe's Faust legend," he wrote. "Thus, from start to finish the Symphony is really about the workings of God through the agency of the Holy Ghost."
Nationally renowned soloists for the performance were sopranos Bridgett Hooks, Indra Thomas and Mary Ellen Callahan; mezzo-soprano Barbara Rearick; contralto Rebekah Ambrosini; tenor John Daniecki; baritone Clayton Brainerd; and bass Les Young.
The children's choir was comprised of singers from the Salt Lake Children's Choir, International Children's Choir, Choristers of the Madeleine Choir School and the Southern Utah University Concert Choir.