Dubbed as a collaboration that was well "worth the wait," the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Utah Symphony and vocal artist James Taylor kept audiences smiling and tapping their toes during the 30th anniversary of the O.C. Tanner Gift of Music Gala Concert held in the Conference Center on Sept. 6-7.
What originated as an idea more than 30 years ago has turned into a bi-annual event — two evening performances — created to build bridges and bring people together in the community.
"This evening's concert is a gift to the community, made possible by the generosity of Obert and Grace Tanner, in cooperation with their dear friend, beloved past LDS Church president Gordon B. Hinckley," President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency, said as he welcomed guests to the event on Sept. 6.
President Thomas S. Monson and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, and other Church leaders were among the more than 20,000 people in the audience Friday evening.
The program, held every other year, has a different musical guest or focus each time, yet the purpose — established before the first performance in the series more than 30 years ago — remains the same: to "uplift and unify" the community.
This year's performance allowed audience members to enjoy a night out with the symphony, a concert from a well-known artist and music from the famous in-house performers — the Mormon Tabernacle Choir — as the three joined together to present a night full of fan-favorites for a combined crowd of about 42,000 people.
"This has been many years in the making, making this connection," said Mr. Taylor in a press conference prior to the performance on Sept. 6. "It just took us a long time to find the date, and I think this was worth the wait. … The Mormon Tabernacle Choir is such a national treasure and a great gift to the world."
The concert's repertoire included an Americana theme including folk hymns and spirituals. The Choir and Utah Symphony impressed the audience with lively renditions of "When the Saints Go Marchin' In," and "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands," as well as other popular pieces like "It's a Grand Night for Singing," from "State Fair"; "Getting to Know You," from "The King and I"; and "Seventy-Six Trombones," from "The Music Man." Tabernacle organist Richard Elliott brought the audience to its feet as he performed "I Got Rhythm," from "Girl Crazy."
"The Tanner Gift of Music was originally designed to touch as many people as possible. … What a great pleasure it has been planning and also rehearsing with Mr. Taylor these past few days," said Mormon Tabernacle Choir conductor Mack Wilberg at the press conference. "It has taken the choir a little bit out of the box, but in a really wonderful way and the choir has really enjoyed working on this music."
Among Mr. Taylor's performances were many of his well-known songs including, "Carolina in My Mind," "Fire and Rain," and "Shower the People."
Mr. Taylor described the a capella performance — accompanied by the Choir — of his song "Lonesome Road" by saying: "After I heard it with this wonderful Mormon Tabernacle Choir I thought the song had finally arrived, almost like it died and had gone to heaven."
Melia P. Tourangeau, president and CEO of the Utah Symphony and Utah Opera, said during the press conference, "For more than 30 years the Utah Symphony performed at the Tabernacle before Abravanel Hall was built, so our roots really, I think, started as partners together. This symbolic program sponsored by our friends at the O.C. Tanner Company … is somewhat symbolic … of how we continue to be partners and work together to bring art to our community in Salt Lake."
For members of the choir, singing with Mr. Taylor was a delight, choir president Ron Jarrett said.